This moving process has given us many gifts. We have received various types of gifts, including more boxes and packing material than we needed (so we were able to gift others with the excess), friends to help when the packing seemed overwhelming, and lots of laughs along the way to lighten the load.

One of the gifts that was most surprising—although perhaps it should not have been—came from our new-to-us next-door neighbors. The first time that we had a few moments to speak with each other (as they came out to get the mail and we were unloading a truckload of boxes), the wife ran indoors and came back out with a box, bag, and card—Christmas and welcome gifts. The box contained some fancy candies (and yes, I broke my fast and enjoyed one), the Christmas card included their names and contact info (invaluable for overwhelmed neighbors who are meeting many new people at the same time), and the bag contained lemons from the tree in their back yard (certain proof that I’m not in New Mexico anymore!).

These folks don’t know us. In fact, the card was addressed “To Our New Neighbors.” But that didn’t matter. What mattered was welcoming these new strangers—us—into the neighborhood. What mattered was doing the right thing. As our country is struggling on a nationwide level with whether to welcome strangers—refugees—into our midst, it really touched my heart that these neighbors had prepared a gift without any concern for who we were, what group we might belong to, or where we had come from.

The wise men who traveled to Bethlehem also sought to welcome a completely unknown stranger. They had no idea who Jesus was. When they began their journey, they didn’t know his race, nationality, creed, or culture. They just knew that God had placed a star in the east and they needed to follow that star and bring gifts. The fact that Jesus and his parents would soon become refugees—who might well need to sell the gold to pay for lodging in Egypt—was of no concern to these leaders. What mattered was doing the right thing.

What does it mean in your life, in this new year, to welcome the stranger? What does it mean, right now, in your particular situation, to do the right thing?

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