Christmas story

Written by Andrew Reimer, previously published in The Messenger

The boy and his family moved here about a year ago. His family is like so many young families around here; there’s a lot of love, but not much money.

The only house they could afford is a run down place in a bad area. The dad is a hard worker, but with his lack of education and no connections he can’t expect a job that will pay him much.

Of course, he could make a lot more money working for them… that is, if he doesn’t mind being complicit in the very forces that are destroying and enslaving his own people. Many young men in his situation are greedy or desperate enough to get their money this way. But this boy’s dad has resisted; he has always tried to do the honourable thing.

Somehow, the boy’s parents have maintained a sense of dignity and cultural identity, believing that they are who God created them to be regardless of the way the dominant society views them.

The strength and dignity of this boy’s people is remarkable considering the ways in which they have been dominated and dehumanized by their colonizers so that even now they live as marginalized people in their own homeland.

The society this boy was born into is full of inequality, poverty, violence and discrimination and, given his race, his family, and his economic status the deck seems stacked against him from the start.

Actually, life for this boy is relatively stable these days compared to when he was younger. When he was a baby his family moved around a lot and they have been homeless more than once.

His parents were possibly too young and certainly not financially ready to care for him when he was born. They couldn’t even afford a decent place to stay when his mom was ready to give birth to him.

And when he was still in diapers his family was homeless again, strangers in a strange place, on the run wanted by the authorities. Now they have moved here hoping for some peace and safety.

This could easily be the story of a family in our neighbourhood, but this true story takes place, not in Winnipeg’s North End, but in Nazareth two thousand years ago. This is the story of Jesus, God’s Son “who became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

According to the New Testament, Jesus was born into a colonized and oppressed people group-the Jews-who lived under the thumb of the Roman Empire. Jesus’ human parents were poor and were forced to take shelter in an animal stable to give birth to him.

To escape the violence of King Herod, they became refugees in Egypt. After returning from Egypt they settled in Nazareth, a marginal place with a bad reputation.

Growing up in this context Jesus and his family would have faced many of the same struggles, humiliations, pressures and temptations faced by the inner city families we know. This is how the Creator of the universe chose to come to us, to be with us, to be one of us.

The Christmas story reveals to us a God who became one of the suffering, poor, overlooked and despised people of our world.

And Christmas reminds us that Jesus identifies fully with the marginalized children and families of our neighbourhood. Jesus put it this way: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Now, go back to the start and read the story again with the knowledge that it is the story of Jesus. How does it change the way you think about Jesus?

How does it change the way you think about the children and families in places like the North End of Winnipeg and elsewhere?

Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) is a community minister with Inner City Youth Alive in Winnipeg, Man.