Saturday, December 19, 2015

This Christmas, which part will you play?

Courtesy of Medical Teams, http://www.medicalteams.org/micro-sites/syrian-refugee-kits


What is Advent without a little Christmas drama? For children, the plethora of casting options includes sheep and camels. For adults, the choices narrow a bit, and some parts admittedly have become more favored than others.
So, in recent days I’ve wondered, “Which part do I want to play this Christmas season?” Not in a largely imaginative church drama, however, but in the current and all-too-real Syrian refugee mega-crisis.
Let’s not forgot that Joseph and Mary’s hometown of Nazareth was part of Ottoman Syria less than a century ago. With that in mind, do we really want to play the “favored” role of Joseph or Mary this Christmas? Or volunteer a child or grandchild to play baby Jesus? Or do we want to play the innkeeper of Bethlehem, who — like more than 30 U.S. state governments — insists, before a watching world, that he or she has no room?
Then again, do we want to play one of the Magi, who risked everything, seeking the Christ child for many months? They traveled perhaps 1,000 miles or more in a small camel train to find “he who has been born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). These wise men may have come from a prestigious city of the ancient Medes, Persians or Chaldeans. Why then their intense dedication to find Jesus Christ and present him with exquisite gifts of great wealth? Braving extreme heat, sandstorms and the constant threat of thieves, these Magi traveled through foreign lands to the far west — within a day of the great Mediterranean Sea.
No, we reject such options, and by default find ourselves living in ease and plenty, like King Herod, who feigned reverence for the one born King of the Jews, yet was driven by the cold calculus that a slaughter of the innocents now might, possibly, someday, save his own neck.
Yes, with such a clear-cut calculus, I too am more than eager to raise my hand and voice, saying, “Pick me! In this real-life drama, I want to play the part of King Herod.” Yes, it’s me. True, I won’t take their lives myself, but I’ll demand that the Syrian refugees die somewhere else, off stage, if only to make sure that I still get to take the final bow and accept the applause of my fellow Americans.
After all, King Herod has the best of all lines: “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him” (Matthew 2:8).
So, this Advent season, please join me in seeing through the gimmickry of the newly active “charities” raising money to aid the refugees. Our donations, regardless of size, won’t make a difference anyway.
If the Syrians are going to die, Charles Dickens was right: They had best hurry up and do it and decrease the world’s excess refugee population.
Of course, I’m being satirical. Yet I fear many people will accept this as gospel truth. After all, what is Advent without a little Christmas drama?
David Sanford of Salem is the author of the forthcoming book, Loving Your Neighbor (Kregel, 2017). 

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