“Rejected” was the response to my visa application to visit a country that better remain nameless. I knew that I should not take it personally but it stung nonetheless. For me, the worst-case outcome is that a hoped-for visit does not take place. But it made me think of those in desperate circumstances who have pinned all their hopes on their application to move to a new country and start a new life. How do they feel when “rejected” is the response they receive?
It made me think too of nativity plays taking place the world over in the run-up to Christmas. It is always a poignant moment when Mary and Joseph discover that there is no room at the inn. This harsh reality is softened by the romance of Christmas and our knowledge that there is a happy ending to the nativity story. But “rejected” was the message Jesus received even before he was born. Soon afterwards it would be expressed still more sharply with Herod’s murderous decree and Jesus’ family fleeing to Egypt to save his life.
Where is Jesus in our world today? Present with all who bid him welcome but close, surely, in a special way with those who have been uprooted from their homes, who have lost their comfort and security, who face an uncertain future, who meet hostility and suspicion in their hour of need, for whom “rejected” is all too often the response to their application. Jesus is no stranger to such rejection. But through his love he offers the very different vision that is captured in the hymn of Shirley Erena Murray:
For everyone born, a place at the table,
for everyone born, clean water and bread,
a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,
for everyone born, a star overhead.
And God will delight
when we are creators of justice and joy,
yes, God will delight
when we are creators of justice,
justice and joy.