– Harriet Beecher Stowe
We know the answer to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s question. We know where Jesus would be if he were to come back to our city on a Christmas day. I imagine he might stop by the Park Avenue churches to say hello but would not be inclined to stay too long. He might say, “Sorry, I have to go. I once read somewhere that it is my job to ‘proclaim good news to the poor.’”
As a white person who benefits from much undeserved privilege, I feel that when I’m truly allowing the “Christmas spirit” to do its work in my heart, I’m a little squirmy, a little ill at ease. Here’s a fact that gives me pause—while I’m not super-wealthy, compared to many I live in luxury. Yet the faith tradition I affirm teaches me—and I believe it—that God has a preferential option for the poor. This is the undeniable narrative arc of scripture, from Genesis through Revelation. And my Catholic tradition, in its deepest roots, also teaches that luxury is a vice. Pope Francis makes this very clear, from his choice of a simple dwelling to his pointed homilies on the subject.
The Christmas story underscores for me of these doctrines – the poor first, simplicity of lifestyle—when I consider the circumstances of Jesus birth—an “unplanned pregnancy,” a really humble delivery room, and the poor men tending sheep who were the first to be given a sign that God was doing something extraordinary that night. All this seems to speak to the larger message of solidarity, love and compassion that Jesus was offering first and foremost to those whom the privileged had pushed aside. Yes, that was the message he came to give to the world. Sometimes I pause and ask myself: what message have I come to give; what message am I actually giving?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, purify my heart in this Advent season. Help me to feel, especially about the poor and vulnerable, the way you feel.