Just before Christmas a few years ago, the Johnson family participated in a program to welcome refugees to Houston, Texas. They received some details about the Al-Fayli family from Iraq and went shopping for practical and fun presents for each family member. They wrapped the gifts and drove to the Al-Faylis’ apartment to meet them for the first time.
The kids in both families were close in age and hit it off quickly. Soon the two families began to spend more time together. At first, the Johnsons focused on helping the Al-Faylis get accustomed to life in the US, showing them how to navigate the city and assisting with paperwork, job searches, school and finances.
As time passed, the families grew closer. They celebrated birthdays and holidays together. The Al-Faylis’ son joined the Johnsons’ sons at summer camp a few times, and this past summer he said yes to the invitation to follow Jesus. The Johnsons are now helping him find a church near his home. Last New Year’s Eve, the Al-Faylis hosted the Johnsons with a wonderful array of Iraqi food and backyard fireworks. What began as an act of service on the Johnsons’ part has become a mutually supportive and meaningful friendship. Both families are grateful for one another and look forward to many more years of friendship.
In Jesus’ last conversation with His disciples, He made a surprising claim, redefining their relationship with Him from the realm of servants to friends. Friends? With Jesus, the teacher, miracle worker and Messiah? Like the disciples, we too might wonder how the Almighty God of the universe could desire friendship with us.
The great news of Christmas is that Jesus has chosen us. “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love” (Ephesians 1:4 MSG).
Think about what the gift of God’s friendship means to you this Christmas season. How can you be a friend to immigrants or others in your community who need support?