‘Rejoice in the birth of a brown-skinned, Middle-Eastern, undocumented immigrant?’
“Rejoice in the birth of a brown-skinned, Middle-Eastern, undocumented immigrant.”
You might have seen this message around the place in the lead-up to Christmas. Among its implications is the notion that the woke, thanks to their superior values, are are better placed to welcome baby Jesus at Christmas time.
I guess if everything can be wokeified, then surely the Christmas story is fair game, too?
Well, wait a minute.
As we read the account of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Matthew, we discover first of all that Jesus was a Jew. That makes him white-adjacent — and a coloniser. Problematic.
Then we’ve got an unplanned pregnancy, with all parties simply assuming Mary will go through with it, and no one defending her reproductive freedom.
Not to mention the account is peppered with patriarchal presumptions: a virgin betrothed, by her father no doubt, to a man she barely knows, who has unilateral rights to divorce her for any prenuptial promiscuity.
Then there’s the angel who has the gall to assign a gender to a baby yet unborn.
And don’t forget the kings journeying from the east, parading about their wealth and privilege, while inflicting cruelty on their caravan of camels — which no doubt emitted far too much methane and were to blame for most of the nativity’s carbon footprint.
You get the point.
I am not at all convinced that wokery would have ensured a red carpet was rolled out for Jesus, or even that his manger was supplied with an extra layer of hay.
To be sure, at that first Christmas, Jesus wasn’t given a particularly great welcome by the non-woke either. Rural-conservative Bethlehem’s hospitality left much to be desired: no room in the inn, an animal shelter doubling as a maternity ward. Then King Herod, a fascist if you’ve ever met one, unleashed his bloody slaughter of the innocents in an attempt to snuff out any rival to his throne.
No, one of the key revelations in the Christmas story is that characters of every race, status and political persuasion had no room for Jesus.
That’s why the virtue-signalling rejoinder I quoted in the title rings so hollow.
In the words of a favourite Christmas song of mine by Casting Crowns, “there was no room for him in the world he came to save”.
Part of the human condition is the misguided belief that we don’t need God — certainly not a God born to peasants in a shed that smelt of donkey dung.
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But the Christmas story is also about the hearts that opened up to make room for baby Jesus.
Joseph enduring the shame of marrying his pregnant fiancée out of selfless love for both mother and child.
Mary in her beautiful Magnificat declaring hope over fear: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”
The support of extended family — Elizabeth and Zechariah most prominently — rejoicing with the young couple at what lay ahead.
Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, who responded without hesitation on hearing the promise of the angels. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Here’s the point: the birth of Jesus is an invitation to everyone.
Christmas is above politics, more enduring than passing fads, and belongs not to any particular social tribe but to the whole human race.
All that matters is how each heart responds.
To quote several better-known and dearly loved Christmas carols, “Let every heart prepare him room,” and, “Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”
God bless you as you open your heart wide to Jesus this Christmas.
And from my family to yours, have a merry, holy and blessed Christmas this year.
Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adult pastor.
Image credits: Gerard van Honthorst, "Adoration of the Shepherds"
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