The clandestine escape from Nazareth to Egypt covered 487 miles, one way.
He was a child on the lam, fleeing to Africa where He could secretly survive in a natural environment without obvious detection. The promised Savior, sent to redeem a renegade world, now was a refugee seeking asylum in His ancestor’s Motherland from would-be assassins.
For centuries only half of the Christmas narrative has been told. Shining angels singing. Lowly shepherds are in awe. His mother is doting. The Babe is asleep in an animal trough. Christmas, the yearly classic re-run of the centuries has long-lost its sacredness to a world that prioritizes getting gifts above receiving its Redeemer.
The Other Side of Christmas
However, for people who live on the outskirts of hope, or in the crosshairs of oppressive systems, or languishing in an unjust world as social refugees, they exist on the Other Side of Christmas. Here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, groups of people live life in polar opposites.
While one group stands and removes their hats putting their hands on their hearts during a national anthem, the other group drops to one knee, bows their heads, and ponders the injustices and brutalities continually perpetrated against them. The dichotomy of the Christmas narrative actually depicts “two unreconciled strivings.”
In this yearly season where debt increases to simulate a Merry Christmas, many people in this country live in the vice grip of man-made poverty and pain as collateral damage of the inhumanity of man against man.
The 2017 U.S Census Bureau report cited 40 million Americans living in poverty, while 41 million people in the U.S. faced hunger in “food-insecure households.” These numbers have increased almost three years later.
Ironically, as this Christmas season kicks off, the Washington Post reported on December 4, 2019, “The Department of Agriculture played the part of Grinch, finalizing a rule to cut billions of dollars from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The rule will remove nearly 700,000 from the program and jeopardize the food security of hundreds of thousands more, representing a callous escalation of the Trump administration’s war on people in need.”
For disenfranchised and discarded people, the Merry Side of Christmas is not their reality. It’s the Other Side of Christmas, the Side on which Christ was born and lived. Oppressed peoples can better identify with Christ from His wounded Side – for He too experienced poverty, hunger, suffering, verbal and physical abuse, abandonment, false arrest, police brutality, a hanging judge, torture in custody, and lynching.
The African Hebrew prophet Isaiah penned, “But He was Wounded for our wrongdoing, bruised for our iniquities. Our chastisement upon Him brought our peace, and with His Wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
The Greatest Risk and Rescue Mission
On the day celebrated as Christ’s entrance into this world, humanity was under great duress. This day commences the greatest risk and rescue mission ever undertaken. The Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) that was carried out against Him throughout the duration of His life was unprecedented. Yet, He would not be deterred from His mission impossible. He accepted His assignment to redeem a lost world.
In Christ’s first public discourse He read from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of Yahweh is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). Unfortunately, the commercialization of Christmas has conveniently muted the real message of Christ’s birth.
A prolific author encapsulated His life’s mission this way:
“Many feel that it would be a great privilege to visit the scenes of Christ’s life on earth, to walk where He trod, to look upon the lake beside which He loved to teach, and the hills and valleys on which His eyes so often rested. But we need not go to Nazareth, to Capernaum, or to Bethany, in order to walk in the steps of Jesus. We shall find His footprints beside the sickbed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great city, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation. In doing as Jesus did when on earth, we shall walk in His steps.” (Desire of Ages 640.2)
During His life on earth, the multitudes came to Christ. It was through His wounded side that they received help, hope, healing, and wholeness. Their joy of salvation became the result for many who received Him through His wounded side. Is it possible to be healed from our wounds? Yes. Christ went from Victim-to-Victor, and you are only two letters and one decision away. It’s time we live on the Other Side of Christmas – the Wounded Side – where people are called and equipped with the knowledge and skills to help those who suffer the deep and painful wounds of life. If you or someone you know lives on the Other Side of Christmas, know that you can seek help, your wounds can be healed. Be encouraged. Your wounded side can be changed into the merry side of Christmas. Just receive the refugee redeemer into your heart.
“People who enjoy joy the most are the ones who’ve experienced sorrow at its depth.”
– Stephen E. Patterson