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The Christmas season is often filled with so many warm and sentimental memories – favorite foods, intimate times at home with loved ones, beautiful music that fills the air, gift exchanges with those close to you, care for those who regularly go without and mourning for those who are no longer with us.

Tonight, at my home in National City, we’ll be gathering with fellow Christians to mourn for all those who have died trying to cross the border this past year. As we have done now for the past four years, we will create luminarias in their memory that we then display these luminarias on the wall overlooking the ocean at Border Field State Park, where the fence meets the ocean.

We write the names of those who have died on paper bags that we will then half-fill with sand and insert a candle in memory of the light that their life was and is no more. As the sun sets over the pacific, the candles seem to grow brighter as they remind us of the humanity of those caught in the crossfire of global economic and political forces well beyond their control.

We speak of immigration as if it is a “thing,” an “issue” to be debated with multiple sides and much controversy. We speak of people in abstractions. It is all too easy to forget that we are talking about real people with beautiful and complicated lives, people with a deep need to find work or to be with their families that are waiting for them on el otro lado.

So, tomorrow at the La Posada Sin Fronteras, we mourn because it is important to remember. We mourn as we remember the migration of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the lack of a warm welcome that they found in Bethlehem. We mourn that it took Jesus’ death to reconcile us to God and to one another. We mourn to remember those who died crossing the U.S./Mexico border.

We mourn as we remember the pain that all of our families have experienced as we have all been migrants at some point in our family’s history. We mourn to remember that the borders we have are artificial, that this particular border did not exist prior to 1848 and may not exist again in the future.

We mourn to confess our complicity in creating them to protect “us” from “them,” and to confess that we continue to enforce these borders to protect the privileged at the expense of those who go without.

We mourn the border as a symbol and sign of the divisions that separates brother and sister from one another.

– JAMIE GATES

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