Joseph, Mary and Jesus… Christmas in the peripheries

I want to share this provocative “Joseph and Mary” drawing by Everett Patterson, with its ingenious references to childhood narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. “Dave’s City Motel”, “Weisman Cigarettes” (cigarettes the saving man), “New Man ger” (the new man), “Good news” (the Good News) and even the Star of Nativity scene in neon blue. But this contemporary portrait of Mary and Joseph goes further: it is the clear image of what many families endure today. Mary and Joseph, the Gospels make clear, were not people of “prominence” except in the eyes of God. They both lived in a backward town of about 200 to 400 people (tradition says that Mary may have been born in nearby Sepphoris, but at the time of her engagement, she was living in Nazareth). In fact, Nazareth, as the Apostle Nathaniel reminds us, was that kind of place you wouldn’t be proud to say you’re from: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” He wonders.

Mary and Joseph were marginal people from a marginal town in the occupied Palestine. They were humble and poor people who lived under the thumb of a powerful foreign power. Therefore, they would have been considered “disposable” in the words of Pope Francis, nothing special or to whom to pay attention, much less who to take care of. As the Gospel of Luke tells it, the two could not find a “room”, and they had to find lodging among the animals (probably in a cave, not even in a stable).

This is where God chose to enter humanity, on the sidelines, in the peripheries. In a marginal place for a marginal couple, giving birth to the historical Jesus, a “marginal Palestinian” in those times.

There, on the peripheries, is where we must seek Christ today: among the poor, the forgotten, the vilified migrants and refugees, the lonely and the elderly, the unborn, the persecuted LGBT people, the victims of climate change and those who they live under modern slavery.

There, in the peripheries, is where God lives, and where he could be found… in the peripheries, among the poor, is where he still lives and where he can still be found. Is there a place for them in our lives?

Argentine by heart & global citizen by choice. @Avaaz campaign director. Ex @Greenpeace & @WWF senior troublemaker, ex @Oxfam non-executive.