The Christmas Question

Last week a member of West Raleigh sent me a cartoon that depicted Mary and Joseph at the manger with the baby Jesus on the “other” side of a United States barbed wire boarder fence. Mary and Joseph looked surprised as a canister or tear gas landed and bounced just a few feet away. The cartoon begged the Christmas question, Are we on the right side of that wall?

Now, I realize that is a politically charged question to ask with less than a week before Christmas, but stick with me, because this is one question that is at the heart of Christmas and it bears worth asking in all sorts of corners of the kingdom where we build walls.

Remember the Herdmans? They are the stars of the Christmas pageant in Barbara Robinson’s classic book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Robinson introduces the Herdmans to readers as “absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers …” After a series of catastrophes and unfortunate events that would make any good pageant director run screaming, it was, in the end, the Herdmans who reminded the church of the true meaning of Christmas. When they entered the sanctuary, dressed as Mary and Joseph, Robinson writes, “They looked like the people you see on the six o’clock news—refugees, sent to wait in some strange ugly place, with all their boxes and sacks around them. It suddenly occurred to me that this was just the way it must have been for the real Holy Family, stuck away in a barn by people who didn’t much care what happened to them.” With the Herdmans telling the story of God’s entrance into the world, the church was able to see through the invisible wall of its own making and get a glimpse of God.

That, disciples, is the good news of the gospel. God entered the world with creative power, revealing that power in unlikely places and refugee people. God drew near to humanity to redeem people on every side of the invisible walls of our own making. God drew near to humanity to give us the eyes to see those walls and show us the way to tear them down. If that cartoon is a picture of our world, then, church, let us be the ones to ask the Christmas Question – Are we on the right side of that wall? Let us be the ones to live without invisible walls and to show the world that it is possible to live without visible ones too. If you are having a hard time believing in the impossible, then, come, let us go again to the manger. There we will meet the refugee family that proved to be God’s powerful and incarnate love on earth as it is in heaven, the Holy Family that reminded us that nothing is impossible with God.

Grace, peace & courage,

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