Presbyterian Moderator calls for people to welcome strangers this Christmas

Dr Michael Barry
Dr Michael Barry

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr Michael Barry, has called for people to show hospitality and welcome strangers this Christmas.

Referring to those coming to Ireland, north and south, looking for peace and security and given the various racist attacks in the news this year, Dr Barry said: “As Presbyterians, we of all people should value the new life opportunities this land offers and set an example to others that we should welcome the stranger. We should ensure that they no longer live in fear bymaking them feel at home.”

He went on: “At Christmas time we remember that Jesus came among strangers in order to give them the opportunity of a better life though faith in him.”

He made his comments as he visited the Church’s International Meeting Point on Belfast’s Lisburn Road on Wednesday last, where a special Christmas party was given for those who drop in each week for hospitality, English speaking classes and help to find jobs.

The project welcomes people from over 30 different countries and has been in operation since 2010.

In his Christmas message the said one of the standards, among others, which the Lord Jesus said he would apply at the final judgement, was ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’.

“We know that he was referring to how Christians, as his followers, should treat other people,” said Dr Barry, continuing: “Of course Jesus knows what it is like to come among people and be rejected. He had a choice whether to come or not. Yet he came in spite of knowing the outcome.

“That is why he left the glory of heaven and took on a human body ­that “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed,” he said quoting Isaiah 53, 5.

“Born to be the Saviour, it was necessary for Jesus to be rejected. Someone has said that we cannot understand the real meaning of Christmas unless we see the shadow of the cross on the crib. But for many people who come to our land it is different. They come because they have no choice. They come in the hope of finding peace and security, but sadly some find that they are not welcomed but are rejected. Instead of peace they live in fear; instead of security they are hounded and abused.

“The safety they long for is not shown to them. And the irony is that they are rejected by those of us whose ancestors came to this land to find peace and security.

“As Presbyterians, we of all people should value the new life opportunities this land offers and set an example to others that we should welcome the stranger. We should ensure that they no longer live in fear by making them feel at home.

“At Christmas time we remember that Jesus came among strangers in order to give them the opportunity of a better life though faith in him. He died to open up the way into a home with his Father. He sacrificed himself in order that we might have peace with God.”

He finished by saying: “I wish you a and your loved ones a peaceful Christmas and may you know the blessing of Christ throughout 2015.”