You know the story: An infant, born in Bethlehem, believed by many to be the fulfillment of prophecy as Israel’s long-prayed-for Messiah.

The twist no one saw coming was how he showed up: by way of a working-class couple who couldn’t afford to bribe their way into an inn. Thus he was born in a cave used to house livestock.

As word of his birth spread, so did threats to his life at the hands of a maniacal king for whom murder was not so much a sin as a means of maintaining power, even if it meant killing every little boy in sight.

The family did what anyone would do: They ran for their lives.

You have to wonder what our reaction would be today if a poor, brown, low-skilled, non-Christian family fleeing persecution in the Middle East sought refuge here.

Because we have the benefit of hindsight, we like to think we’d welcome the Holy Family.

I’m betting not.

In recent years, we’ve refused them entry, time and again.
A strange land

The number of refugees from troubled and truly dangerous parts of the world has trickled to a drip under the false excuses they pose a threat to us and that there’s no adequate vetting apparatus.

So, no, we probably would not accept Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

We would instead blame them for not making better choices.

We would tell them we can’t be the world’s safety net.

We would warn them that if they insist on coming, the baby likely would be placed in federal custody and it wouldn’t be our fault if something happens. But when someone’s trying to kill your family, there’s not much thought put into whether or not you’re breaking a law.

If keeping your child from harm means you must learn a new language, new customs, or even go to jail, you’ll do it.

We love to romanticize the Christmas story. People who’ve never had to cross a desert on foot, with an infant in tow, tend to do that. We rarely stop to ponder how God, clothed in human flesh and rags, sought refuge in a strange land because it’s not how we would have done it.
The outsiders

We say we understand why Jesus deliberately chose to live among the poor, powerless and helpless, even as we demonize them.

We easily are impressed by the glittering specter of celebrity, wealth and political power, but it wasn’t the shepherds who wanted him dead.

It’s no accident his coming first was revealed to the Magi, who were foreigners and complete outsiders; then to the shepherds, working poor who were holding on to the prophet’s promise that “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”

It’s no coincidence the news was accompanied by light and glory, though our take on Christmas often plunges people into the dark despair of guilt for not doing and buying enough.

Because we’ve sanitized Christmas for so long, we’ve forgotten the Nativity and the flight to Egypt is a raw story about money, politics, hubris and how a baby posed a threat to dismantle it all.

We have forgotten the law does not absolve us from compassion. Every child who suffers in this world bears testament to that forgetfulness.

In our busyness and celebration, we are at risk of forgetting Christmas is about our need for refuge, rescue and reconciliation, and deemed by God to be so important, only a child could be trusted to deliver it.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.