Lifting our lamps

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 words were penned by the 19th century American poet Emma Lazarus. You can find her full sonnet here: “The New Colossus.”

This poem is engraved on a bronze plaque mounted inside the lower level of The Statue of Liberty. The word Colossus means big and refers to the tallest statue known in the ancient world, built around 280 BC in honor of the Greek God Colossus. Perhaps in calling her poem “The New Colossus,” Lazarus was referring to the giant spirit with which American was founded on.

These words, especially the ones I have highlighted above, have taken on new depth and meaning for me recently. It started when our good friend Ben Schrag composed a song based on these words. You can listen to it here:

Ben said that these words had been on his mind, and like a lot of creative ideas and projects, the song had “worked its way to a boil on the back burner.” Then one afternoon, about a week before the Syrian refugee crisis became the center of national news, and with his two young children sitting quietly across from him, he recorded this song in his living room.

It is amazing to hear such a giant message sung in such an intimate, vulnerable way.

Ben is, in his words, a “big believer in striking it small.” He hopes to write enough and sing enough with the hopes that people might just care enough. It might, as he says, be just a small drop in the information, social media ocean, but I think it’s such an important drop that will create positive ripple effects. People might just listen. People might just care.

I hope by sharing this song in worship on Sunday (thank you Jesse Graber for singing it) and by sharing it here, that we will all lift our lamps as we bring in this new year and as we seek to light the way for one another, especially the huddled masses among us yearning to breathe free.


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