If you take the Christmas story on its own, and separate it from that cataclysmic climax, and also strip from it the swaddling clothes of romantic baby-manger sweetness, it is a powerful, radical, challenging, beautiful story. It is a soul-searing story. The central figures are outcasts, immigrants, strangers, itinerants, illegals. This is a refugee family. They have no standing. They own nothing, and not by choice. Their poverty is abject, their invisibility is obvious. These are people, the young woman, the man, the child, who don’t matter at all.
Invented or not, their story is true, and timeless, and timely. It is always startling, always disconcerting for this reason, and always surprising, because the angels do sing to this unfortunate baby, the great kings do enter and bow down, and the singular strange infant becomes universal. He is every baby ever born, any baby ever born.
Let us use the essence of this story to reflect on the current immigration debate in our nation. This family is undocumented or illegal. They are poor and downtrodden. Are we as a nation to align ourselves with the innkeeper and close the door to say you are not welcome — to turn ourselves away from the poverty, the need and the promise of this couple and their forthcoming child much to their potential harm? Or will we as a nation see that this couple is seeking shelter from a storm and needs our humanity to reach out to them and embrace them?
Open the doors
Let us choose the path of wise men in bearing gifts for these children by opening the doors to them and their family. For their knock on the door of the United States is a reminder of our nation’s heritage, as a nation of immigrants. It is a reminder of our strong tradition of Judeo-Christian faith in our nation. Both of these religious traditions place strong and firm beliefs on “welcoming the stranger.”
During this Christmas season, let us reflect on the 12 million “strangers” in our midst. Strangers who like Mary and Joseph are seeking shelter from a storm and a better life for their children, born and unborn.
Shall we be wise men and pass comprehensive immigration reform — or shall we be the innkeeper and erect a wall at our border? Which speaks to our values as our nation?
Let us rediscover our soul during this holy time of the year for so many Americans. Twelve million people are waiting for our answer.
Dan H. Hoxworth is chair of the Economic Justice Initiative at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church. The Rev. Victoria Safford is the minister at WBUUC.
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