If I were to reimagine the infancy narrative of Jesus from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke using modern language, I might consider the switch from, “There was no place for them in the inn” to “Go back to wherever the fuck you came from!”
For over the past two years, the words of the now infamous JCPenney’s rant have been rattling in my head. Yes, it is disturbing that this happened in my hometown of Louisville, but it is disparaging that it happens anywhere. Yet, what is also disturbing is that I have uncomfortably heard these words from family members, strangers, and friends alike. If this woman’s words are rooted in anything similar to that of those I know, then I know those phrases are birthed in the same pain and fear that it causes.
- “Speak English Goddamn it!” ~ Exclaims the insecure woman fearful that they might be talking about her.
- “You’re nobody.” ~ Shouts the man, who for years felt unworthy, unloved, and like ‘a nobody’ himself.
- “Your probably on welfare.” ~ Claims the man who feels overworked, undervalued and fearful that like so many Americans, he might not have a living wage.
- “Go back to wherever the fuck you came from!” ~ Cries the women consumed by fear and misinformation that outsiders will destroy the fabric of her America.
- “I’m sorry but…” ~ Fears the antagonist that if he or she stops shouting that people will turn on them and recognize the insecurities that they are projecting on this “other.”
With the season of Advent and Christmas officially upon us, Christians are asked to place ourselves in the story of the birth of Jesus. To welcome the immigrant Mary and Joseph, and to prepare a place for the Christ child.
- How is a Christian to prepare a place for Christ in a world inundated with visions of hatred and violence?
- How can a Christian welcome a place for an immigrant child when walls are being constructed to separate us from one another?
- How can a Christian vision the Christ child being held in the arms of Mother Mary, when children are still separated from their parents at the American border?
- How can a Christian make room for the coming of Christ, if refugees are denied entry into a safer, freer nation?
- How can a Christian prepare a place for love and peace when their hearts and minds are consumed with fear?
Fear corrupts absolutely. Fear hijacks love.
It is that consuming fear that corrupts love. For when someone is corrupted by fear, they are afraid that who and what they love might be attacked.
When we are consumed by fear, we neglect the reality and humanity of our collective shared grace. When we are consumed by fear, we narrow in on our own imperfections and imagine that each person can see the mask of our pain. When we are consumed by fear we make God small, weak, and fragile. When we are consumed by fear, we imagine “wars” on Christmas and “wars” against our faith?
As Christians, we are supposed to believe that God is all-loving, all-powerful, all-mighty, all-forgiving, all-creative. Yet, how often do Christians [who are consumed by fear] limit the possibility and grandeur of God?
How often does the Christian say:
- “There is no way that God can forgive me for this or that?”
- “We cannot allow this person or that person to participate in Communion because of what they have done.”
- “God hates fags.”
- “I am unlovable.”
- “Anyone who is not Christian is denied the love of God and the promise of heaven.”
- “You’re going to hell for that!”
- “They are not one of us, we cannot let them in!”
If God is all-loving, all-powerful, all-mighty, all-forgiving, all-creative, then perhaps, like Job realized, is there more to God’s plan for our greater humanity than we mere humans can imagine?
Perhaps our own fear has transformed us into the innkeeper.
Perhaps we have closed ourself to the possibility of God’s forth-coming that, Grace teaches us, is alive in each person.
We each need to recognize our own fear, our own insecurities, our own pain, and allow love to take over.
The only thing that can conquer fear is love.
Love is far more powerful than fear.
If we can love our own blemishes, our own pains, our own doubts. If we can love ourselves for who we are. If we can love ourselves as God loves us. Then perhaps we might be able to love others too. Perhaps we might begin to love the stranger, the hungry, the refugee, the sinner, the saint.
Like the innkeeper, we have all closed ourselves to love. During this Advent season, it is important to (re)examine how we have closed and locked our own hearts and minds to ourself, and others.
Advent is the time to let our love flow, and recognize the unending Grace that flows from within, from around, and from all over.
Advent is the time to begin to unchain our fears and consider the grandeur of God’s loving potential.
Advent is the time to welcome the stranger, and to live like Christ.
Advent is the time to find room in our inn.