At the risk of perpetuating the stereotype of me seeing much of life through the lens of an anglophile, I’m sharing this video that recently came across my inbox:
I’ve always read Scripture–and experienced God–through the lens of hospitality. Be it Zaccheus being suddenly thrust into the role of sharing a meal with Jesus, Paul finding hospitality as he traveled (except when that hospitality was the jailer’s), Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, or Jesus telling the person next to him that they would be together in paradise, the practice of welcoming people threads throughout Scripture.
It makes sense, then that the Holy Family’s narrative would involve the question of who, exactly is going to provide a place for the birth of the Christ child.
What Does Your Stable Look Like?
All of our sweet Christmas pageants, creches and live nativities domesticate our presumptive theater-of-the mind narratives and associated images. I’m complicit as I have enjoyed watching my own daughter graduate from role to role. There was thee year we had the “flash mob” nativity where participants wound up with two Mary’s and no Joseph’s, she was a sheep. The year of the dramatic monologue, she was a dove. This year, she simply sang in a choir. Before long she’ll be in the running for Mary. Those precious images captivate us, and rightfully so. They also numb us to the realities:
- The stables and mangers we spend so long creating and festooning supplant the reality of a hollow place in a rock cliff we call a “manger”.
- An older child portraying Mary might be more realistic than we would like to think.
- The Holy Family had experiences very similar to immigrants or refugees, needing to rely upon the generosity of strangers for safety and shelter.
This season has seen many memes referencing race, immigration status, and even religion when it comes to who all was present at the first Christmas.
There’s a Song in the Air
There’s something about this season when we celebrate the Incarnation, when we cannot help but practice hospitality. We welcome family and friends into our homes. We exchange gifts. We seem to all want to be a little more generous. I do no think this comes from small schmaltzy sentimentality. This is simply part and parcel of who we are as children of God.
The Incarnation, in all of it’s deep, profound, and complex theologies is also profoundly simple. God comes to be with us. That affirms the innate worth of humanity–a narrative that begins in the Creation Story and continues to this day. But it finds it’s clearest articulation by the birth of a child in need of parents to love, care, and feed him–a child that would be in peril were it not for Mary and Joseph’s willingness to continue saying yes to God’s invitation.
I guess there have always been children in peril. The images from Syria prove that.
Regretfully, it seems this is always the case.
What surfaces, though, is this poetic symmetry–God loves us enough to come and be with us. It came to pass that the most fitting way to do this was with a poor, homeless family in dire circumstances. In response to God’s love for us in Jesus, we are called to be tangibly present–incarnate–for others, especially all of the Mary’s and Joseph’s of the world.
Who’s In Peril in Our Community?
This feature on GPB references foster care in Georgia and specifically points to methamphetamine addiction as a contributing factor for the rise of children in foster care in our state. A friend who works in this field in Virginia said the same thing in this interview.
These parents and these children are the exact people whom we need be incarnate for, the exact people who need someone to come alongside, provide hospitality, and abide for a while. Every children deserves a loving, compassionate, and nurturing home.
I’m honored that I get to serve the church by inviting congregations and individuals to serve, to love, to restore children from trauma. This Christmas, as our family reads the Christmas story, it will take on an entirely new facet because of this work.