“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These famous lines were written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 (in her poem titled The New Colossus) and were enshrined at the Statue of Liberty in 1903 when the number of individuals seeking refuge in the United States was at its highest. Millions came from England, Germany, Russia and beyond eager to find work, religious freedom, or a chance at a new life in what would soon become the most powerful country on earth. Try to envision what it must have been like for one of these hopeful immigrants, sailing into Ellis Island after a long cross-seas jaunt, to look out and see the Statue of Liberty standing tall with her torch held high. Lady Liberty, no doubt, represented a chance for freedom, a chance to support one’s family, new-found opportunity, and hope. The words of Emma Lazarus only add to the awesome symbolic nature of the Statue of Liberty in being its voice. For years it has echoed the same words over and over to millions of individuals.
More recently, the dream and grandeur of immigration to America has been dulled. Immigration reform and fights have been ongoing in our legislatures. Illegal immigration has become a real problem that needs to be addressed. Add these issues to the very real and dangerous problem of terrorism and the idea of immigration for freedom and hope seems to wane some. These issues are very important and need to be discussed and debated and fixed. Those arguments are for another place and time but do lead us to a point today. To get to that point, try to imagine a sinner, lost in a massive sea of hopelessness and a world of religious confusion – much in the same way a potential citizen might encounter confusion and red tape. Then, the sinner is taught the Word of God, taught about salvation in the church, believes the word, obeys the word, and is baptized. Now, try to imagine that sinner who was lost in that daunting sea, looking up and seeing Christ. Of course, Christ is not a statue out in the middle of the ocean, but the symbolism fits. Just as Emma Lazarus’s words spoke for the Statue of Liberty, the Bible speaks for Jesus Christ. Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
These words were spoken by Christ and showed his feelings toward mankind as a whole. In sacrificing Himself for our sins He not only established Himself as the Savior of mankind-which was prophesied from the beginning- and acts as our mediator to God (I Tim. 2:5), He became the symbol of freedom for all men everywhere. His arms are outstretched to everyone who has ever lived or will live on this earth. The torch He holds high is His word that we read and study and pattern our lives after. The freedom that He offers is an entrance into His Church, His Kingdom. And, just as the immigrants of old knew that their hard work was only just beginning in their new homeland the same hard work is required for Christians. It was never a promise of easy living for hopeful Americans but a hope and a chance. Christians are promised that we will receive those things we need to live the Christian life (I Tim. 6:8) but the blessings beyond that are priceless. We enjoy fellowship with likeminded individuals, the avenue of prayer, forgiveness of sins, a freedom from this world that is beyond measure.
Jesus, like the Statue of Liberty and Emma Lazarus, has a beckoning call. He says, give me your tired, your poor, your weak, your sins, your burdens, your cares, your grief, your loss, your fears, your anxieties, your dread, your hopelessness, and on and on and on. He stands tall in the ocean of sin and pleads for the huddled masses to come to him. Let’s show people the liberty found in Christ. Let’s lead them home.