As I set out to write one last epistle reflection of 2015, there is one meme that I have seen again and again in subtle, and not so subtle, ways on Facebook. Jokes pointing toward the status of characters in the Christmas story who don’t fit with our comfortable sensibilities. Just take a look at this one highlighting who the Magi were. Others have pointed out the refugee status of the Holy family escaping to Egypt, or the poor and lowly status of Shepherds coming in from the fields.
All political joking aside, there is an important and oft overlooked theological truth lurking behind these cartoons—God chooses the least expected people to play the role of heroes of the faith. Again and again, the Bible highlights God working through people like Mary—an unwed teenage mother; the Magi—foreign religious leaders from what is modern day Iran; Shepherds—perhaps the modern day equivalent would be migrant farm workers. All of these are people that we would most likely overlook in our daily lives, as we try to focus on the things and people we would call “more important.”
I suppose that if I have one prayer for you this holiday season, it is that you look to the people that we would cast aside, as the people where the light of Christ is already residing. Looking at God’s history of choosing people, the next hero of the faith probably won’t be a white, middle class, straight, able bodied, Christian boy. God seems to shy away from what the culture tells us is the “norm.” If we were truly wise, we would be looking upon those that the culture ignores, and seeing them as bearers of God’s Christmas light. I hope that you will carry this message with you this season, and be a little more attentive to that store clerk, that person you pass on the street, or that jerk in the car that just cut you off. I hope that especially, you will pay attention to the ones that don’t look like you, don’t sound like you and the ones that make you uncomfortable. If there is anything that we learn from the Christmas story, it is that God is present in the most unexpected of places—like a feeding trough for animals.