It was in a manger he was laid, a place of dried grass for cows to feed in harsh climates.
From the moment he appeared in our flesh, ‘he had nowhere to lay his head.’ He was one of the countless children born in strange places, railway stations, back streets and migrant camps. It was all a long time ago and the world has moved on. We now have modern hospitals, air travel and instant communications. Our progress has been rapid and all embracing.
Yet we still have mangers. For all our progress, we still have the heavy burden of poverty. We have never bridged that divide. In some ways it is worse today than ever because today it is structural, built into the way power and wealth operate. Joe Biden may preside over the wealthiest country in the world and he may want to solve the issue of migration but he seems powerless to do so. Developed countries say they cannot open their doors to migrants as they did a century or more ago. They would be overwhelmed by the problems created.
Nor, it seems, are they able to come up with a policy to eradicate poverty in the countries from which the migrants come. (No migrant willingly leaves their country. They do it because of war, civil unrest or the relentless poverty arising from an economic vacuum).
The first response is good, even heroic; relieve the immediate suffering of the migrants by at least rescuing them from the sea and giving them a place to stay and food to eat. That is charity and there will always be a need for it. But it does not solve the problem More is needed and this we call justice. And when we are faced with systematic structural injustice what do we do? The issue is now linked to the big Cs: Covid and Climate.
Just as the big Cs do not just affect some parts of the world but not others, so the migrant question is rapidly becoming unavoidable and will simply have to tackled. It speaks in a loud voice about our postponement of the Beatitudes. They were nice words Jesus spoke on the hill by the lake all those years ago. They were all about opening our hearts to others and not counting the cost to ourselves. The fact that they were spoken on a mountain, echoing Moses’s words when God first announced his covenant, and that they were a highly developed version of the Ten Commandments, can easily pass us by.
Each year, at Christmas, we return to the question: are we creating a world that reflects the values of the Kingdom of God or are we waiting for God to do it somehow from on high? He has handed the world over to us. He cannot interfere with our freedom. It is up to us. He was born in a manger to help us get rid of mangers. As with Covid, as with Climate, we ask; what can I do? There is no simple answer. But when we look, we will be shown the way.
25 December 2021 Christmas Day Is 9:2-7 Tit 2: 11-14 Lk 2:1-14