Exactly whose side is Jesus on?
Throughout this past season of Advent, our church, along with hundreds of thousands of churches across the globe, sang the Magnificat, Mary's song in response to the news that she would bear the Son of God. Her voice soars, "God has looked on the...
Throughout this past season of Advent, our church, along with hundreds of thousands of churches across the globe, sang the Magnificat, Mary's song in response to the news that she would bear the Son of God. Her voice soars, "God has looked on the lowliness of His servant ... He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit, he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly, he has fed the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty." (Luke 1:46-55)
Jesus' mother, Mary, was pregnant out of wedlock, a condition that called for public stoning to death. Joseph, her fiancé, took her on the arduous journey - on foot and by donkey, in a wooden cart with hard wheels, along a rocky road - from Nazareth of Galilee, in the north of the country, to Bethlehem in the south, where his ancestors came from. Their Galilean accent gave them away as outsiders. There was no room for them, even in her anguish of labor. Jesus was born in a stable, not a spacious and well-ventilated barn the likes of which are common to us, but rather a dark entombing cave, the air stark and stale with the stench of animal feces and urine.
The news of the birth of Jesus was delivered by messenger, not to the Roman rulers or to the religious authorities, but to lowly shepherds. Their testimony was suspect as unreliable. No wonder those who heard their story of this newborn babe born in stable "wondered at what the shepherds told them."
When ruthless King Herod heard secondhand of the birth of this "newborn King," he was afraid, along with all those in power in Jerusalem. He ordered his soldiers to kill all the children in and around Bethlehem up to two years of age. Joseph got wind of the impending slaughter and stole away on another arduous journey, this time to Egypt. Jesus and his family were refugees in a foreign land, one that afforded safety and protection until the threat of Herod had passed. Herod passed, as all rulers do.
Some 30 years later, in the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus assumed for himself the prophecy of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release of the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus is on the side of the poor, the hungry, the lowly, the oppressed, the outcast, the stranger, the refugee, the alien.
The Rev. David Tryggestad is a retired Lutheran pastor in Duluth, currently serving as organist at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Superior.