Christmas, Undocumented, Part Two: A Silencing Night

Click here to download Part Two

“Silent Night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright, ’round yon virgin mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night, son of God, love’s pure light, radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.”

As you read the final installment of Christmas, Undocumented, I hope you will hold this song in your soul and imagine the Son of God, Lord at birth, coming into the world in this most wrenching way. Hold that paradox of a God that would break into the world in such an unexpected way that it would quite likely be overlooked.

Allow yourself to experience the birth of Christ as you’ve never imagined. May it re-arrange your experience of the Christ Mass this year, and perhaps, even shift that Anglocentric image of Jesus that many of us, myself included, carry inside our souls like a poison.

And I hope you will find this retelling meaningful and moving, and I hope you will come back and share your experience of this story here or on my Facebook page.

If you are new to the story, please visit my initial post for an introduction to it and to download part one, Anunciacion. To download, part two click here or the logo above. To download Part One and Two in one pdf, click here.

Throughout the story, you may have noticed some links embedded within the text. These are links will take you to some of the sources I used to help inform this story. In fact, some of the worst injustices in this story actually happened to real-life immigrant women.


About David R. Henson

David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He is a father of two young sons and the husband of a medical school student.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    Friggin’ brilliant, David. I would argue, still, that Jesus’ birth wasn’t humiliating, but if Mary were to be put into such positions that our way of life insists the OTHERS and migrants and strangers be put into, then, yeah, NOW it’s utterly humiliating.

    also, (SPOILER ALERT!) I was deeply moved by the irony of the nochebuene, recognizing that it’s supposed to be a feast spent with your family after Christmas Mass while Ave is… not feasting nor with her family.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      Yes! That’s my point. (I think you’ve convinced me of your point, too).

  • L. R. Kiel

    The only problem I have with the portrayal of the birth of Christ as a parable involving illegal’s, is it gives the impression that Mary and Joseph were themselves breaking the law by travel to Bethlehem. They were following the law at the time to return for the census. Their presence in Bethlehem was not an illegal act, rather required by law.

    I don’t think that the bible should be used as an unveiled source for fiction, or imaginative fancy, and only used with great care for political action.

    The story you have written, stands for its self, as does the Nativity story. The danger comes when meaning is injected into the Nativity that isn’t there.

    As for the broader question of using imagination to interpret the Bible, This too is dangerous, unless the imagination is firmly grounded in the Bible. It is one thing to imagine the conversion of Saul, it is another to imagine the conversion of Saul by a light from an alien space craft, and use that to advance UFO theories.

    While I agree with your background to the story being the impoverished nature of the birth, your assertion that the parents were poor travelers looking for a better life cannot be verified biblically. The couple had access, and perhaps ownership, of a donkey, and not portrayed as itinerant worker, nor did they take up residence in Bethlehem for years.

    The interpretation of the birth into such a political issue through imagination is dangerous, and not supported. They are two different issues.

    Instead of runaway imagination for human issues, better tools would be prayer, thought, and action on how to improve the human condition.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      Thanks for reading, for engaging and, yes, for disagreeing. No surprise, I disagree with you and your premise, particularly considering that the birth narratives themselves are fictions (okay, more like foundational origin myths, but certainly not history as we modern folk think of it) put forward to advance a political and social agenda. This political rendering of the Nativity story is in fact very faithful to the political implications vis a vis Empire particularly in Luke’s gospel.

      But, nowhere do I give or intimate that Mary and Joseph were illegal immigrants historically. What I do intimate is that “He would have to be born to a minority people, an oppressed, exploited and mistreated people. He would have to be born in deprivation, in humiliation. He would have to be born in the context of kenosis, of self-emptying. Jesus would have to born in circumstances that would deprive him of his basic rights, his dignity. He would have to born in the most powerful Empire in the world, but in a way that would have been ignored by everyone who held power and important positions in our world.” I do say his birth would be undocumented (by which I mean the Empire would take no notice), but this does not imply that Mary and Joseph were illegal immigrants.

      The problem with your comments about imagination are that these stories are in fact rooted in the biblical narratives and within the tradition of narrative re-interpretations. Christians have always reimagined the story of Jesus in modern contexts, from European religious art to Jesus of Montreal to the Cotton Patch Gospels to Joseph Girzone’s Joshua.

      What you seem to be looking for is a legalistic, literalistic word-for-word retelling but in a modern setting rather than a retelling that captures the actual spirit and impact of the stories in their original contexts, based on what we know historically about how people like Mary and Joseph might have lived.

      Put you’ve proved right my follow-up post about how and why so many Christians fear the human imagination rather than cultivate it.

  • Momminator

    Sorry to have come upon this so late, but I really like it. A lot.


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