Against the expectations of her family, a teenage girl finds herself pregnant. The laws of the State force her to follow her fiancé to another province, where she doesn’t know anyone. She gives birth to her child in the most abject poverty. Facing persecution, she is forced to exile herself to a foreign land, where she raises her son among refugees...
The media are full of stories like this one, day after day, to the point that we don’t notice them anymore. Except when the photo of a dead child who has just been washed up on a beach comes along to upset us. Then it’s no longer just a story. For here is a child just like mine. His family, too, is just like mine, even as they struggle through a terribly, cruel tragedy.
And the story of the pregnant teenager isn’t just a story, either. Her name was Myriam. Her fiancé was called Yosef. She named her son Yeshuwah. We know them better under their anglicized names: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Yes, Jesus was a real child with two flesh-and-blood parents, victims of the politics and the wars of his time, suffering exclusion, poverty and exile. Surrounding this family we find a few simple shepherds, some astrologers from foreign lands, two elderly people at the Temple.
In the lives of this couple and this child who resemble us so much, Christians from every age have recognized the Hand of God at work. God tracing a new path for our history. God opening up a future that promises, beyond all violence and war, a Reign of justice, peace, and joy
This is what we celebrate at Christmas. The memory of these people. The inauguration of a new era in our history. The arrival in our world of a God who, wonder of wonders, makes himself as small and as fragile as a newborn babe.
How can we celebrate Christmas, therefore, without thinking of the thousands of families who, even today, endure tragedies similar to those endured by that family from Nazareth? May Christmas open our hearts and our homes to lost teenagers, to desperate young couples, to refugees without hope, to exiles without friends, to all those who feel as small and as vulnerable as a newborn child. Just like Jesus.