This December is a month of displacement. Christmas 2017 will mark the third Christmas that I have moved in four years. I am not complaining, mind you. I do not wish to be the poster woman for the First World Problems meme. But for someone who just learned how to do Christmas well, to really enjoy the holiday with family, it feels like a loss. The reasons are somewhat complicated, involving jobs and relocations and sometimes impossible working situations. But the fact remains that I will not be pulling out much if any décor because I will have no place to put it.
And then I remember the first Christmas. I so appreciate the fact that Jesus went through so many of the things I have had to face. Mary, too. If I was God, which I freely admit I am not, I probably would have orchestrated a very different birth event for my only begotten son. I think I would have skipped through to the present day to avoid the atrocious maternal mortality rate that was the norm for millennia. I might have been tempted to send Jesus to private school and shield Him from mean kids. I definitely would not have made Him poor.
And the whole unwed mother thing. Been there, done that. Being a very young pregnant woman bears a certain amount of shame. The first thing that one of my mother’s friends said to me was that I wouldn’t be able to wear white at my wedding. And I didn’t. I wore ivory two months later marrying the man who was supposed to make everything all right and ended up the worst enemy I could imagine.
The first Christmas and the events before and after it were all pictures of displacement. Displacement is the moving of people from where they belong to somewhere they do not belong and are not at home in. And Jesus and his mother, Mary were displaced in so many ways.
Makes me think that God is not as interested if we belong to others as much as if we belong to Him.
God knew what He was asking Mary to do. He knew that she would bear that disgrace her whole life to the people who knew her. She was displaced from her social position. Christians will give lots of money, but ask them to give up their social position for disgrace? Maybe not so much.
Giving birth in a barn is a displacement of a rather desperate kind. Essentially, Jesus was born homeless. That is a painful thing to consider. I pass homeless people every day. I try to listen to what God calls me to do individually. Sometimes He directs me to give. Sometimes He directs me not to give. But I know this, homelessness is the displacement of the mentally ill, the addict, the poverty-stricken. And Jesus as an adult was, by his own admission, homeless.
Makes me think that Jesus didn’t view the homeless problem as hopeless.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were political refugees as well. Herod the not so great as I think of him indulged in infanticide. What kind of madness to be jealous of an infant? Millions of people are fleeing similar fates tonight. And no nation is guiltless of displacing the innocent. Here in America, we mostly did it to people of different shades of skin, but religion and political ideologies work just as well.
And He was abused, imprisoned, betrayed, and in the end, crucified. He suffered the displacement of the criminal, innocent though He was. But because He suffered that humiliation, Heaven has one thieving attendee who would otherwise be lost.
Jesus was born, lived, and died an outcast. He represented every kind of displacement or ministered to those who suffered from displacements of varieties he could not experience. He reached out to the prostitute and the demoniac. This comforts me because while I am not an outcast, I have spent my last five years skirting community. It takes time to forge deep friendships and roots develop over decades, not months. To move every year means that friendships are cut short and I barely have time to become anything more than a slightly familiar face at church.
But displacement teaches some crucial lessons. For me, the ability to endure long periods of solitude is a gift that makes my writing possible. I learned that I am not a person who can raise six children, teach full time, and write. And write I must. I am closing in on the first full revision of my novel and I owe it to all this moving around and the loneliness it engenders.
An Axis Mundi, literarily speaking, is a meeting place between heaven and earth. Jacob’s ladder is one and the cross is another. But the stable too is such a meeting place. The step-father, the disgraced mother, the baby with the fate of the world in His little hands seek temporary refuge there. And strangers bearing gifts and stories of angels find them anyway.
How humble and yet full of grace is this place where a little refugee is born who will make a home for all the lost, the displaced, the disenfranchised, and the broken. I guess if Jesus was born in a state of the art hospital and surrounded by the wisest and most powerful in the world, then the majority of the people in this large, lost world of ours would never get the chance to feel known. They wouldn’t be let through security.
But a stable is open for business. We all get a chance to peer over the stall to see Jesus in a manger, all human, all divine, and destined to be our home where we abide in safety, in this world and the next.
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