I‘ve Seen Mary and Joseph at our Border
Sometimes in the wealthy, industrialized West, we’ve sanitized the story of Christmas and the Nativity so that it fits in quite naturally with the consumerism, bright lights, and Santa Claus. Joy to the World is played in between Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
None of this is necessarily evil or malicious, but it is distorting. It changes the way that we understand the birth of Jesus and our current role in that story.
Though it might conflict with the image we have of ourselves, in places like the United States we are not children of Israel under the oppressive rule of the Romans. We are the elite of the Roman Empire. It is not necessarily our fault that we were born in this position. It’s not necessary to feel guilty, but it is important to feel a sense of responsibility for the Marys and Josephs in our modern world. I have seen them firsthand in my work at our southern border- pregnant women and women with young children staying in conditions that actually make the barn in Bethlehem in a probably a slightly warmer climate seem pretty nice in comparison. Families sleeping on the ground.
Pregnant women sleeping in sub-freezing temperatures in tents surrounded by cartel members and organized crime. The carol Away in the Manger comes to mind when it talks about no room for a bed. It makes me think about families of five or six sleeping in one small tent or about mothers with their children gathered in dozens in a small gazebo with no privacy at all.
In the wealthiest nation in the world with some of the lowest population density, we have decided that we don’t want to take in asylum seekers even though many of us are the descendants of these very same immigrants who came on boats in squalor and poverty. We of course then make up even self-righteous reasons why we can’t take asylum seekers-such as stopping the spread of COVID while we allow those with money to freely enter our border to come shopping. It sometimes makes you wonder, have we’ve gotten the plot the whole wrong and we are playing the role of Caesar Augustus while we claim to worship the Christ Child? It is an especially sad reality as those who claim to be following Christ are often the ones most likely to keep him in squalor outside of our borders. There’s of course a level of nuance here as many of those on the ground doing the work are actually truly following Jesus.
I’m really past the idea of talking about the insurmountable complexity of the border. Yes, like anything else, it’s complex, but it’s simultaneously quite simple. We have chosen to put our fear above humanity. We have decided that we don’t want to follow basic international human rights, so we will strong-arm Mexico into keeping these migrants, which essentially means they’re going to live on the streets in the cold of winter. Sometimes, we make things over-complex that are quite simple. We are leaving Mary and Joseph out in the cold with their Jesuses, being born in the mud like happened to our friends in Matamoros. While we sing the hymns about the holy family in the comfort of our homes let’s not just be stirred by guilt and discussion about immigration. That in and of itself is a form of privilege. Rather, we need to actually speak out on behalf of those suffering.