A Christmas Day message not delivered

Christmas Day 2016

They couldn’t believe what they were seeing! A giant roadside billboard of Luke’s version of the nativity scene. For some it was shocking and troubling. It looked nothing at all like their beautiful nativity most imagined. The sign painter had painted a simple cardboard shack with a contemporary Joseph and Mary who looked very much like the street people who lived in the park a few blocks from the church.

Baby Jesus was wrapped in rags and lying in a tattered disposable diaper box. There were no shepherds or wise men, no angels with gold-tipped wings. There was only a bag lady and a cop who had come by on his horse. They were both kneeling in front of the diaper box, and the babe appeared to be smiling at them.

And underneath the picture were painted the words:

This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped
in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.

How do you think you would react to such a sign? Surprised? Disappointed? Cautiously approving? I know my first reaction would definitely be one of surprise. Shock, perhaps.

Our nativity scenes are the picture of serenity, not poverty. I normally don’t think of homeless, poor people today as those closest to Mary and Joseph’s situation that night — even though that’s likely the truth.

Jesus promises to come be with us today through this Holy Supper we are about to share. He comes to feed us this Christmas Day, so that every day he might be present with us, guiding us with his Holy Spirit, which some might name the Christmas Spirit: the spirit of giving; the spirit of holding every human life as worth the same, as worth saving.

He came that first Christmas as a vulnerable, poor, and homeless child that we might learn to hear him say to us this Christmas Day,

‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

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