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Updating Christmas

A friend posted this illustration to Facebook. I found it ... at first perplexing, then disorienting, then resistant, then interested, then accepting.

If we saw a couple like this in a rundown part of town, outside a convenience store and cheap motel with no vacancy--what do we think? Do we think at all? Do we, before realizing it, "Oh, those people. They should have planned better. They can't even afford a cell phone. How old is she anyway? Is this 'relationship' even legal? Should I give them a lift? Ask it they need help? What if it's a scam, like those people panhandling on street corners and making good money at it?"

Was the first Christmas all that different?

We could argue, yes, it was: Mary and Joseph had followed all the rules of their culture, had family support, were poor but most people were, etc. They were traveling because an oppressive emperor forced them to migrate to the husband's ancestral home just .... because.

I have said in my class, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." I need to change that. While it's true, it implies that the surface is all that matters, and that we are justified in judging on the basis of external appearances and categorizations without knowing anything deeper about people.

I imagine plenty of folks in Judea just said, "There's another poor couple traveling for the taxation census." And turned away. My concern is not that we self-proclaimed do-gooders insert ourselves into people's lives without their permission, but that we change first how we define ourselves and those who look "other."

I see I have not blogged here for two and a half months, but I blog several times a week at

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