I have been thinking about Jesus. It is natural, since most of the Western world is getting ready to celebrate his birth.
It is not so much Jesus at the shopping malls I have been thinking of. Not even Jesus in nicely polished churches on Christmas morning. I have been thinking of Jesus in the manger. Jesus reduced to the poorest of the poor, denied entry into the houses and the homes of the ones whose lives were full of predictability and privileges. Jesus who was a refugee. Jesus from a place despised and looked down upon. Jesus whose parents spoke with a weird dialect. Jesus, with just hay to cover his cold body. Jesus who was rejected because he didn’t belong.
I have been thinking of us, his followers. What would we have done if Mary had showed up at our door, cold, exhausted and pregnant? What would our replies have been if she had asked us to let her come into our homes to sleep and rest her weary body? “Sorry, miss, but you may be a terrorist, so I cannot let you inside.” “Excuse me, but with that cloth covering your head, I cannot trust you. You may only be pretending to be pregnant. Most likely you are here to steal my stuff.” “That man you are traveling with, he looks like real trouble. His beard is a bit too long to just be an innocent carpenter. How do we even know he is a carpenter?” “It is probably best not to give the pregnant woman anything to eat. She will probably just sell it on the black market.” “If you would convert to our faith first, I may consider it.”
In Aleppo last week, I met so many Marys and Josephs who just wanted a place to rest. But most of all, I met Jesus. I met Jesus in the child I held, in the old woman whose hands I held, in the mother who begged for help, in the hundreds of children who huddled together, wet, cold, hungry and afraid. Again, and again I had to tell myself: This is Jesus.
But Jesus is not just in Aleppo. He is in Myanmar too. He is the with the scared, hungry and persecuted Rohingya.
He is at the immigration offices. He is in the poor parts of the inner city, trying to make a living. He hurts when people, especially those who claim to follow him, assume that just because he is poor, speaks with a different accent, wears unfamiliar clothes, he cannot be trusted.
Jesus. This Christmas, will we allow him to come to us?
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’