One of the most prominent themes of the Bible is displacement.
Throughout the text displacement is seen in many forms: nakedness, slavery, exile, wandering, occupation, homelessness, captivity, and more.
Over the years even the Bible itself has become displaced to me. It has fled from its cozy bookshelf home as a neat and tidy answer book, and become a category bending collection of ancient texts more complicated and beautiful than I can fully describe. It’s new terrain is the mystery and messiness of raw human life as it grapples with the divine.
I’ve grown to take comfort in the the questions and tension that the Bible creates in the soul of its audience because these dynamics are part of its power and also a window into our own experience.
That’s why the theme of displacement in our sacred text is so important not to overlook, because this experience is part of the sacred text of our human story.
Displacement is as common in our contemporary moment as processed food or pollution. Everywhere I’ve traveled around the world, I can buy a bag of Doritos and taste exhaust fumes.
In the same way the experience of displacement is omnipresent. From gentrification in urban centers to the global conflicts that have caused tens of millions to become refugees- open up any recent news publication and you’ll be quick to find a story documenting the lives of people who have been forced out of, priced out of, or perpetually with-out, a stable home.
And it’s not just on societal levels. Each of us, if we’re honest with ourselves carry a sense of being out of place. We’re constantly trying to find belonging in our work, our relationships, our houses, our legacy, or our image- but underneath it all we’re still haunted by the fear that we’re alone, unknown, soon to be forgotten, or without a real place to belong. And so we often fake our confidence and act like we know what we’re doing. All the while we’re terrified that some one will find us out, and the truth of our displacement will be laid bare.
What then do we make of the claim of Christmas, that the Divine also became displaced?
Consider the account of Christ’s birth in Luke 2 which tells of God’s entry into human history as being born in a barn to parents were politically displaced.
Or the events of Matthew 2 which describe how young Jesus and his family were forced to escape to Egypt in order to avoid death.
Or St. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:8 which describe the economic displacement of Christ- that he, though rich, became poor for us.
To me, this Advent season, as so many feel displaced, the claim of Christmas has become more urgent than ever.
What is the claim?
That God became displaced.
That God enters into our displacement.
That God is found among the homeless, the refugees, the lost, the wanderers, the exiles, and all of us resident aliens.
That God transforms our state of displacement into a home.
That we are invited to follow this example and become displaced for the sake of others.
That Christmas truly allows us to become people who don’t belong, centered around the beautifully out of place baby Jesus, for the sake of those who don’t belong.
That is good news right there….