On This Day: The Christmas Story Whose Ending Never Changes

On This Day: The Christmas Story Whose Ending Never Changes December 19, 2018

Check your Facebook newsfeed on any given day, and you might see a blast from the past. Your own, that is. A picture or a deep thought or life event that you shared a year ago, or three years ago, or five years ago, etc. And it will say “On This Day …” and then you can click the link to visit more “On This Day” postings from other years.

I’ve made it a habit of reading my “On This Day” posts every day. Probably because I’m a writer and I’m always narrating my own life in my head. Always good for material. Not to mention, it’s a spiritual exercise. Remembering where you were when is a good way to get perspective on where you are now.

Many of my “On This Day” posts around this time of year offer a behind-the-scenes look at church around Christmastime. Or funny holiday-related things my kids have said or done. Or rants about the commercial awfulness of everything, how I can’t stand crowds or traffic, and why I will be staying in a six-mile bubble around my house/church for the duration of the season.

What about you? What do your “On This Day” posts reveal about your usual December? Family baking marathons? Who’s the reigning ugly sweater champ? The woes of trying to, for the love, get a family Christmas card pic with everybody looking at the dang camera? All that sounds about right.

I’m going to take a sharp turn here, but while we’re thinking about “On This Day” remembrances, this bit of information came across my field today:

“On this day—in 1944—the Supreme Court ruled in Korematsu v. United States that the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans was constitutional.”

Maybe that doesn’t seem all that extraordinary. After all, this ugly bit of our shared history is not exactly news. But what should be considered extraordinary is this: that ruling was not thrown out until June of 2018.

This year.

Which is to say “On This Day LAST YEAR,” and every day for the 74 years before that, we the people still maintained that locking up families on the basis of nationality and ethnicity was A-OK, and well within our rights as Americans.

This year, we got a clue and finally, finally tossed out that ruling.

You’d think we would know better now. Except, we don’t really. Because here we are again … locking up families and children on the basis of nationality and ethnicity.

It doesn’t really matter that it’s December. Any time of year is the wrong time to let fear and xenophobia rob us of compassion. Every season is the wrong season to embrace a blind nationalism that destroys families and victimizes children. But it’s profoundly ironic that this particular “On This Day” came up in December—the season when we wait for a child who will change everything; when we await God’s arrival among us, in a real and tangible way.

Here we are, waiting for our humanity to be born, and we continue to sacrifice it at the altar of white power.

Every time God shows up at our border, we lock him up. Every time God comes to our door, we exile him back to the desert. Every time God tries to breach our many protective walls, we tear her baby from her arms.

When God arrives as a child, we lock her up.

And then we wonder where our savior has gone.

On This Day, some Christmas soon, maybe we will learn that our toxic patterns of fear and abuse are rooted in patriarchy, not gospel. Maybe we will trust what the prophets have tried to tell us for ages—that God never arrives in power and privilege, but in poverty, as a stranger, and—most likely— as a child in need of our care. It’s a story as old as the hills, the story that never changes. But maybe one day soon, we will.

Who sends this song upon the air
To ease the soul that’s aching?
To still the cry of deep despair
And heal the heart that’s breaking

Brother Joseph bring the light
Fast, the night is fading

And who will come this wintry night
To where the stranger’s waiting?

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