Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Monday, March 14 Read Psalm 140

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy and executes justice for the poor. Psalm 140:12

Welcoming the Stranger

I found myself writing this Lenten devotion on Christmas Day. The Psalmist David praises the Lord as the protector of the needy and poor. Perhaps not coincidentally, we celebrate the birth of Jesus who entered this world under the most humble of circumstances as Savior for all.

Jesus was born in a stable surrounded by livestock because there was no room at the inn. His birth took place in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph, who later fled the country so Jesus wouldn’t be killed. Jesus was first revealed to the world by shepherds who glorified and praised God for all the things they had heard and seen. Jesus, our Savior, came into the world amid the poor and needy of his day. He gave hope to the lowly shepherds as he gives hope to all today.

During the Vietnam War, I was fortunate to serve most of my active military duty in the Panama Canal Zone. I was the officer in charge of the three Army officers’ clubs on the Caribbean side of Panama. Most all of the employees who worked in the clubs were Panamanian civilians who lived in Colon, outside the canal zone. Although the civilian employees and their families lived in neighborhoods of poverty with a low standard of living, they were some of the most dedicated, loyal and honest people I have been associated with during my adult work life.

I found the Panamanians to be genuinely humble and sincere people with a strong faith, deeply devoted to their family and to God, despite whatever difficulties, prejudices and hardships came their way. Their faith sustained them.

More recently, I have found many of the same characteristics in the immigrants and their families who live in our midst. Many of my immigrant clients have shown a strong work ethic and deep desire to provide a better life for themselves and their families. Despite the many prejudices and injustices they face, I have observed immigrants to have a strong faith that has helped them to persevere through challenging times. Their faith has also sustained them.

As King David observed long, long ago, God lifts up the lowly of the world through his grace, love and mercy. May we follow in the footsteps of God’s Son, Jesus, by welcoming the poor, the stranger, the refugee in our midst.

Larry D. Ehrlich

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