Xenophobia: an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.
Come see him, this stranger, in a manger. Draw near to the infant, a king dressed in humble swaddle, our savior, yawning in the night.
Life is no lullaby. In Jesus, God will receive first-hand the angry xenophobia of the crowd.
Hunted by Herod, a political refugee in Egypt, harassed by the religious powers that be–did we welcome our guest? Did we rejoice, with eyes overflowing, as the lame, the broken, the dreamers, and the desperate found their home in him?
Or did we wonder at the company he kept?
Who Is This Xmas Baby?
Whatever you think of Jesus, whatever you may have heard, however he is reinvented by the smug voices around you, please hold on to this: Jesus, on the cross, his arms open wide, making a breathless plea, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
Isn’t this the true spirit of Christmas, to fling our arms open to those around us, including the troubled and troubling souls who can’t yet return our kindness, who don’t know how to be better?
The early Christ-followers must have been stunned by the unprecedented ethnic and sociological diversity of their gatherings. Fear and revulsion of the stranger was deeply inbred. The Apostle Paul urged, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
“For the glory of God”–so God will be shown for who he is. As humans, we jealously guard our homogeneity (“these are my people”), but God delights in diversity.
Think of it–we live on a planet where over 400,000 different species of flowering plants bloom at the Creator’s bidding, where 10,000 new animal species are discovered each year! As for people–you will never find two who are truly identical. Nobody is like you, and they were never meant to be. The differences that divide and disgust us do not deter God. He calls us to unity without uniformity, an open-armed invitation to all.
The end to xenophobia winds through the heart of God. It is his love, his understanding we borrow, for no person is alien or repulsive to him.
It’s not too late to have a xenophobia-free Xmas. Chances are good you will encounter strangers today, if only in a news report, or beside you at a traffic light. Will you notice the frazzled look, the discouraged shuffle, the defensive gaze of the forgotten, the lonely with nowhere to be?
Christmas is the day to fling our arms wide, and join in the loveliest of cries, “You are welcome.”
Merry Christmas, my friends. You are so loved.
In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. We are almost to the end! Forgive me for the long pauses–my writing time has been taken up by academic papers. I have only two more classes and hope to graduate in June with my Masters in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. I hope you experience the open arms of Jesus this Christmas.