As we celebrate Christmas, people who are marginalized are living in hope of the just society that Christ’s birth promised. They are seeking Jesus to find equality and justice.
Looking for Jesus is not a new phenomenon. According to the Gospel of Matthew, King Herod and the Magi looked for Jesus at his birth. Each had their own agenda for the search.
The Magi, who knew about the prophesy of the promised Messiah, sought Jesus for the good news that he would bring.
Herod saw the Messiah as a threat. He was looking for Jesus with the intent to deter the justice that was promised.
Today, people still look for Jesus for different reasons. Some seek him for the material things they can accumulate. They would deprive people unlike themselves the option to peacefully and justly coexist.
Those who want a reconciled humanity seek Jesus for righteous reasons. They desire a community that eliminates fear and distrust. In the face of extreme opposition, they look for Jesus so that those who need sanctuary from injustice will find it.
Looking for Jesus for the right reasons requires a radical biblical hospitality. Michele Hershberger, chair of the Bible and ministry department at Hesston College in Kansas, says that when we engage God’s radical hospitality, the stranger brings a gift.
I have observed that the stranger often resides on the fringes of society. Strangers frequently bring a bit of Jesus with them.
Last month, a 90-year-old man was arrested for defying a city ordinance not to feed the homeless in public places. He was led to do what was just. Was he looking for Jesus? Did he find him? Maybe. He is one of the faces of Jesus among us.
When we find Jesus, we care for those who are disregarded, no matter who they are. We give love and joy to others by encouraging and working to change systems that cause people to feel hopeless.
The Magi didn’t find Jesus in the stable far away from those who opposed him. They found him in his hometown, living and breathing among friends and enemies.
The baby Jesus grew up to demonstrate to the world that God is a God of justice. If we are to find Jesus, we must work to bring about the healing and justice that the Messiah brings.
Leo Buscaglia, an author and lecturer, once judged a contest to find the child who cared the most. A 4-year-old boy who consoled an elderly neighbor won. Observing his neighbor crying because his wife had died, the child went and sat on his lap. His mother asked what he said to the man. The child replied, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
The child gave a gift of love. That’s finding Jesus at Christmas.
Let’s commit a crime of compassion during this Christ Event Season. A radical crime might be inviting a stranger to your Christmas celebrations. It might be scary. But it’s an opportunity to receive the gift of the stranger — the gift of righteousness that Jesus’ birth produces.
Like the Magi, sometimes we have to go out of our way to look for Jesus. The path may be unclear, but we need to focus on what’s guiding us.
Are you looking for Jesus this Christmas?
John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.