I. Not everyone can be a star: when roles are cast for the annual school Christmas pageant, disappointment is inevitable. Such was once the case when two boys vied for the role of Joseph. The one who wasn’t chosen was left to play the innkeeper, the villain who leaves the Holy Family out in the cold. The kid was mad.
The night of the play, Mary and Joseph strode across the stage and knocked on the door of the inn. When the innkeeper answered, Joseph said, right on cue, “We’ve walked a long way. My wife is going to have a baby. We’d like a room for the night.” Joseph was, of course, prepared to hear that there was no room at the inn: that’s what they’d rehearsed. Instead, the innkeeper said, “C’mon in! We’ve been expecting you!” Joseph then decided he’d also go off script. He stuck his head in the doorway, looked around, and said, “No wife of mine is staying in a dump like this. Come on, Honey. We’re going to the barn!”
II. “Come on in. We’ve been expecting you.” What sweet words. Tonight, as Christians have done for nearly 2,000 years, we retell the ultimate immigration story: God in Jesus crossing the divide between heaven and earth. In a brilliant move, God pitches his tent among shepherds: the poor, the marginalized, the wandering. Jesus finds his place among those, like himself, for whom there seems to be no room, those who might be left out in the cold.
III. And there is another immigration story being told these days. So many of our immigrant brothers and sisters in this Ascension community live in uncommon fear. Instead of an immigration system that works, giving them a path to residency or citizenship, they suffer the threat of mass deportations, moms and dads taken away from their children, good and holy families being torn apart. Just as he did long ago, and always has done, Jesus finds his place among these, like himself, for whom there seems to be no room, those who might be left out in the cold: the poor, the marginalized, the wandering. Incarnate in them, Jesus approaches us again, looking for a home.
IV. With all the privilege I so easily presume, it is challenging to understand the depth of fear and consternation that our immigrant brothers and sisters experience. To find some measure of compassion, I need only pay attention to the wounded and wandering one in me, that part of me that is frightened and uncertain, dislocated and restless, never quite at home, left out in the cold: that tender soul that longs for mercy and understanding and refuge. That is how we begin to be in solidarity with our dear brothers and sisters.
V. In the face of whatever it is that worries and tries us, that frightens and grieves us, we find our hope here, as we retell, again and again, the ultimate immigration story. God’s choosing to share in human life at its inception means that there is no want, no need—nothing in our lives—unknown to God, no corner of our lives unvisited by God. As surely as God seeks a home in us, we find a home in him. “Come on in,” he says. “I’ve been expecting you.”
h/t: Daniel Groody