Season’s Greetings, Dear Friends,

What a thrill to be walking with you in this season of Advent. For many of us, the chillier winds, longer nights, and slower rhythms usher in a mysterious warmth as hope beck- ons us from an ancient yet marvelously new point of light. As we turn the page and (re-) enter this new-old liturgical season, the three-year lectionary cycle begins anew with regular selections from Matthew’s gospel.

Of all the gospels, it is perhaps Matthew’s which most orients us to the political context of Jesus’s arrival into our world. Once we get past the tedious genealogy of chapter one (itself thoroughly political content) the way is clear to appreciate the distressing circum- stances into which our Divine Companion enfleshes that brilliant and frail and gorgeous confluence of healing and liberatory potential many of us have come to know as the Christ—Emmanuel, God with us.

In chapter two, Matthew is eager for us to see Herod the Great as bearing uncanny re- semblance to the Pharaoh of Egypt—both of them paranoid, restless, and relentlessly cruel oppressors. As the story goes, no sooner do Mary and Joseph welcome Jesus into their lives than an angel of God sends them fleeing to Egypt—to Egypt. (What a state- ment about the horrors of Herod’s tenure that his own people would sooner flee back to Egypt than remain under his rule!)

So there we find them, refugees, Egypt-bound, seeking safety and peace from Herod’s reign of terror. It seems to me that one assumption common to just about all Christians is that there is nothing remotely arbitrary or cavalier about God’s choice to enter our groaning world through the experience of a child born of Jewish peasants fleeing political violence. As a dear friend in seminary once memorably put it, “for us, Jesus marks the spot of humanity’s most pressing need for intervention.”

You can imagine, then, the immense joy I’ve felt in learning how deeply involved this church community has been to the needs of our own refugee friends from Afghanistan over the past year. In addition to generous monetary support, members of this community have invested their time, energy, and possessions to help ensure our new neighbors feel as much of the peace and safety as it is possible for them to know in their new lives. As it happens, our new friends in Brattleboro bear their own glad tidings: Another precious child is on the way, whom they anticipate welcoming into this world any day now. What a luminous gift to our aching world!

With this gift comes a fresh opportunity to renew and recommit our efforts to surround and accompany our friends in this time of joy and challenge. Our partners in this work, West River Valley Mutual Aid, tell us that with the arrival of a fourth child, our friends face new challenges on top of recurring ones—areas where our support would do much good.

If (and only if) you have the capacity and wish to join me in helping out, please feel free to contact me directly. Let’s keep walking with our new neighbors in their continued journey—and ours—to find the peace that beckons us all home to wholeness.

Yours in abundance,
Matthew Deen