We all play our parts in the story of Christ’s birth in this world: Joseph, Mary, The Wise Men, and even Herod. What part are you playing?
Christ is born among us regardless of whether or not we cooperate. But in this cosmic drama, we are most certainly called to play the Joseph part, the Mary part, the Wise Men part, but not the Herod part.
Who is Joseph, and what is the Joseph part? Joseph is the 1973 Endangered Species Act, protecting vulnerable species, despite short-term cost to human economic bottom lines. Currently the company Kinder Morgan is trying to build an oil pipeline from the Permian Basin to the Texas Gulf Coast. The pipeline would threaten endangered species populations and water quality, both of which are groups of vulnerable beings. Furthermore, the pipeline would more deeply entrench our society into dependence on fossil fuels, a dependence that threatens countless species on this planet. Kinder Morgan is not Joseph in the cosmic drama of Christ’s birth. Instead, Kinder Morgan is Herod, seeking to sacrifice the lives of the vulnerable to secure its own self-interested future. We may indeed lose much if we align ourselves with the Mexican Long-Nosed Bat, the Whooping Crane, and the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles (all of which are endangered species in Texas), but the Holy Spirit visits these endangered, special creatures in the starry Texas night with Good News: Christ is to be born in this world!
Who is Mary? Mary is the everyday Christian who refuses to run from her own life. With every reason to be afraid, to doubt, to run and hide, to blame, Mary resorts instead to prayer. Prayer is her protection and her sanctuary. When we create sanctuary in our own minds and hearts, we too are Mary, for Christ longs to be born in us. When we react in anger and resort to violence, whether large or small, we are not playing the Mary part. Now, to be sure, Christ is born in us whether we know it or not, whether we create space or not, whether we react in anger or not, but if we do not turn off the TV, the internet, and all of the noise, if we do not sit still with our own chaos to see it for what it is, if we do not guard our hearts in a time of daily prayer, we may well fail to recognize Jesus’ great, miraculous, humble birth right here in our hearts, this moment.
Who are the Wise Men? When we come to worship we are the Wise Men. They are called by the beckoning of a star in the sky, and they are filled with a desire to follow, to find, to worship. What an appropriate response when encountering the divine presence: to gather and to worship! We may indeed encounter baby Jesus in nature, in a home for abused children, in the halls of the Texas legislature while advocating for the voiceless… but we certainly encounter Immanuel here, now, whether we recognize her or not. The Sacraments remind us of God’s true presence. If we do not perceive her here, then we have an opportunity to be transformed—by grace—into Wise Men who are ready to follow a star across the entire Earth.
In the cosmic drama of God’s birth, be Joseph. Be Mary. Be the Wise Men. But for God’s sake, don’t be Herod. Christ is coming, regardless.