In a few short days, Christians will celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ, a Middle Eastern child born to an unmarried teenage mother and a man who was not the baby’s father.
Many American Christians, especially those who support Donald Trump, seem to overlook the most significant parts of the story. It’s as if they think Mary really wanted to give birth in a dirty stable, far from home, surrounded by farm animals, and having to put her newborn to sleep in a feed trough.
The truth is that Mary and Joseph had no choice. They were at the whim of an emperor who could throw their lives into chaos just so he could take a census “of the whole world.”
Never mind that a young woman about to give birth was forced to travel miles from home to “register.” Never mind that the lodging places were filled to capacity by the sudden, unexpected influx of travelers. No one wanted to be bothered to house a young couple who were obviously about to become parents. (“Look at her, she’s barely legal, and that “fiancé” of hers probably doesn’t have a job. Let her and her baby daddy sleep in the barn with the other animals.”)
The manger sets that we put in our homes at Christmas are sanitized, sterilized. The donkey and lambs are as sleek and well-groomed as a show dog, and it’s so much fun for the kiddies to play with them. Mary and Joseph don’t look exhausted, but radiant with joy. Angels and shepherds and magi crowd in for a glimpse of a miracle that everyone else in town has somehow managed to overlook.
Soon enough, this little family will have to flee for their lives. This holy infant so tender and mild will grow up to be an itinerant preacher who champions the poor and warns that the rich will have a hard time getting into God’s kingdom. Eventually, he will be executed as an enemy of the state.
But for now, Jesus is just where the MAGA crowd wants him: Away in a manger, helpless, cuddly, non-threatening. That’s how they like their Jesus, as the Christmas babe or as the risen King who will decide that only people like them will get into heaven.
They aren’t really interested in what he said or did in between. If they were, they wouldn’t support the building of a border wall to keep people out. They wouldn’t rejoice over the death of a little girl whose father only wanted to get her to a better place.
Make sure you wish them a merry Christmas, for they know not what they do.