Shepherds get on their robes with staff in hand in order to keep the sheep in line. The Magi wrap their presents to prepare for the journey ahead of them and the angels, oh my, the angels delicately place their halos in order to announce the good news of Christ's birth. The great Christian tradition of the Christmas Pageant is alive and well. The scripts come out, rehearsals are held and then we fill the church with family and friends to take pictures and enjoy the childhood innocence of the Christmas story.
There is usually one though.
Often it's a shepherd who blurts out a line the director didn't rehearse, or a little angel who is having trouble singing 'silent night' on key, or a magi who seems to be two steps behind the rest on his way towards the manger. Its a funny thing, these unscripted moments. They tend to be the moments that leave a lasting impression. Unscripted moments have a way of intruding on the pageants of our lives.
As we grow older we recognize the simplicity in the Christmas story we rehearsed as children and acknowledge the much more complicated Christmas story context. The holy family looked less like a white-middle-class-american family and more like middle-eastern refugees who have no place to lay their heads, or the homeless single-mom living with her children in a van on the street. Every now and then, if we are watching, the people who live in the margins give us unscripted moments that intrude on the upwardly mobile pageant of our lives. Remember the young Syrian child we know as the 'boy in the ambulance?' These moments don't happen often, unfortunately, but when they do we are left with an impression of the world Jesus and his parents lived in. After all, they were the middle-eastern refugees we are tempted to shut out and/or register (remember the census?). They were the family living in the van on the street that 'concerns' us.
This Advent I wonder if we will again get so caught up in the scripted moments of Christmas that we fail to recognize the people in the margins. As we gather together on Sunday mornings I hope that we can expand our understanding of Jesus by embracing the Christ-child who was a marginalized-registered-refugee and by doing so help us recognize those who live in the margins of our script, in our community, and in our world today.