Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 11

If Jesus Were Born Today

Excerpted from Rubel Shelly, What Child Is This? (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing Company, 1996)

When God was born into our midst 2,000 years ago, he went to extraordinary lengths to identify himself with the things we try to avoid. He came among us in poverty, unsanitary conditions, obscurity, and danger.

Because that event is so far away in time, it has an air of unreality about it for some of us. One of the greatest needs each of us has relative to Christ's birth is to see the real humanity of his situation.

What if the Son of God had not been born in Roman-dominated Palestine of the first century? What if he had been born in the WASP-dominated United States of America on the brink of the twenty-first century? To what lengths might he have gone to identify with human need? The Old Testament prophecies would have pointed to and the reality of his arrival would have been just as unlikely among us as it was then.

Perhaps he would have been born to a teen-aged black girl rather than to a teen-aged Jewish peasant. He almost surely wouldn't be born to middle-class whites.

Perhaps his place of birth would have been an overcrowded housing project rather than crowded Bethlehem. I can't imagine that he would be born in a hospital and carried home to the suburbs.

Perhaps the man and woman caring for him at his birth would have been married by a Justice of the Peace rather than by cutting short a Jewish betrothal. People might have whispered about the date being moved up and called it a shotgun wedding.

Perhaps the announcement of his birth would have been made to migrant farm workers or street people rather than to shepherds watching their flocks. I can't see the story being put on the ABC Evening News.

If God went to such lengths then to identify with the dispossessed and powerless, shouldn't we bring their modern-day counterparts into the purview of our compassion? Shouldn't we identify with them rather than avoid them?

Think about it this Christmas.

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