At its core, the Christmas story is radical. Christ enters the world in the form of a marginalized infant — a story about finding hope amid brokenness by pushing forward into the darkness. We cannot find the true light of Christmas without understanding what it means to be in the dark, opening our eyes to the injustices in our neighborhoods.
The quotes below help us to center the hope, healing, and justice of the Christmas miracle: The late mystic Thomas Merton sees the whole world as a “demented inn,” a place where Christ deliberately arrived uninvited. Theology professor Drew G. I. Hart explains that Christ’s birth serves as a symbol of solidarity between God and the oppressed. In our own lives, we must practice Christmas every day, like Ebenezer Scrooge, who vows to “honor Christmas in [his] heart, and try to keep it all the year.” We cannot limit the expanse of Jesus’ miracle to one season. May these words enliven us this season and into the next year.
Hope is a song in a weary throat.
- Rev. Pauli Murray, Dark Testament (1970)
To work for a just world where there is not servitude, oppression, or alienation is to work for the advent of the Messiah.
- Gustavo Gutiérrez, The Power of the Poor in History (1979)
His mother bore him in her womb; let us bear him in our hearts. The virgin was big with the incarnation of Christ; let our bosoms grow big with the faith of Christ. She gave birth to the Savior; let us give birth to praise.
- Augustine of Hippo, “Sermon 189” (c. 400)
So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ — the life of the world.
- Daniel Berrigan, Testimony: The Word Made Fresh (2004)
And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, letter to Maria von Wedemeyer (1943)
When I find myself rendered distraught by the world around me, as I imagine Mary must have been, I remind myself that God works in and through chaos.
- Valerie Bridgeman, “Building the Commonwealth of God,” sojo.net (2020)
The Christian challenge of Christmas is this: justice is what happens when all receive a fair share of God's world and only such distributive justice can establish peace on earth.
- John Dominic Crossan, “The Challenge of Christmas,” HuffPost (2011)
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)
Arise, your light has come! / Fling wide the prison door; / proclaim the captive’s liberty, / good tidings to the poor. / Arise, your light has come! / All you in sorrow born, / bind up the brokenhearted ones / and comfort those who mourn.
- Ruth Duck, “Arise, Your Light Has Come” (1974)
Jesus knows well the pain of not being welcomed and how hard it is not to have a place to lay one’s head. May our hearts not be closed as they were in the homes of Bethlehem.
- Pope Francis, “Urbi et Orbi” (2017)
It’s tempting to turn Christmas into a safe holiday that asks little of us. But that would ignore the prophetic, subversive life of Jesus. Christians honor him on this holiday — and the rest of the year — only if we risk the scorn of the powerful to stand with the undocumented immigrant, the Muslim family viewed with suspicion, the refugee fleeing injustice.
- John Gehring, “Why Christmas is Radical,” Religion News Service (2016)
The very location and circumstance of Christ’s birth was a symbol and sign of God’s solidarity with the socially oppressed and outcast.
- Drew G.I. Hart, Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (2016)
The manger is not only a reminder that God is with us, but a challenge to live in a way that brings God more fully and radically into our world. The Christmas story is a subversive story. It erases the lines we draw between ourselves and others. It turns our values and our ways of thinking upside-down.
- Joe Kay, “Resistance in a Manger,” sojo.net (2016)
I would (if wishing could make it so) have for you the gift of community, a nucleus of love and challenge, to convince you in your soul that you (yes, you!) are a source of light in a world too long believing in the dark.
- Rev. Maureen Killoran, “A Christmas Prayer”
So this Christmas, this holiday, I’m inviting us to strip it all down to the story of God loving us enough to come as us — loving us enough to come as us to change us. And the ‘us’ He modeled, the us God decided to in Her amazing wisdom be is the Other — the Other, the so-called ‘Other’ to teach us how to love the outsider in.
- Rev. Jacqui Lewis, “A Bold New Love” (2018)
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited.
- Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable (1966)
[T]he Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.
- J.I. Packer, “The Staggering Mystery of Christmas,” Decision Magazine (2015)
[T]o honor and celebrate God’s birth we must open our doors to God when God knocks, seeking shelter. We must never view Christmas as if it were simply about Jesus’ birth 2,000 years ago. If we do, then Christmas becomes a mere historic relic.
- Rev. Benjamin Perry, “The Abuse of Asylum Seekers is the Real Assault on Christmas,” sojo.net (2018)
Let us not reject redemption! Let us not be darkness! Let our hearts be open like a cradle so that Christ can be born in each soul tonight and from there flood every heart with light.
- Oscar Romero, “Today a Saviour is Born to You” (1977)
[W]e need Christmas more than ever this year — not in spite of injustice but because of it. We need the incarnation of Love in our midst. We need the Prince of Peace to arrive in our world, in our country, in our justice system, in our hearts.
- Sarah Thebarge, “No Justice, No Christmas?,” sojo.net (2014)
You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover who we are, where we are to go, who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you ... for the waiting time.
Christ’s birth in Bethlehem makes it possible for us to co-labor with God in yanking pieces of heaven and bringing them closer to Earth.
- Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, “Advent Reveals the Paradox of Our Faith,” sojo.net (2021)
When the song of the angels is stilled, / when the star in the sky is gone, / when the kings and princes are home, / when the shepherds are back with their flocks, / the work of Christmas begins: / to find the lost, / to heal the broken, / to feed the hungry, / to release the prisoner, / to rebuild the nations, / to bring peace among the people, / to make music in the heart.
- Howard Thurman, “The Work of Christmas” (1985)
Christmas Day doesn’t redeem our wounded world in an instant — as if the old order vanishes with the newborn’s first cry. Instead, Jesus undergoes a human life and entrusts our lives to the Holy Spirit’s care.
- Isaac Villegas, “Cross Marks on the Stable Door,” sojo.net (2021)
All books featured on this list were independently selected by Sojourners’ editors. We have partnered with Bookshop.org and when you order books through the links on sojo.net, Sojourners earns a small commission and Bookshop.org sends a matching commission to independent bookstores.
Got something to say about what you're reading? We value your feedback!