This Advent, Listen to Those Who Feel Unwelcome in the Church

Commentary
By Kaitlin Curtice 12-06-2017

The people of this country who are not white have felt the judgment of much of the American church and a colonized government for far too long.

It has been a continual part of our history. But in 2017, we’ve seen much of the American church support a government that discriminates against people of color and indigenous peoples and says immigrants and refugees are not welcome.

This Advent season, we need to remember that Jesus was not white. And in solidarity with that truth, we need to make space in our Advent season for the church to openly lament that American Christianity has often stood on the side of the oppressor and not on the side of the oppressed.

This Advent season, we need to close our mouths and listen when people of color and indigenous people speak about feeling unwelcome in America’s institutions and churches.

We need to listen when our Muslim and Sikh siblings speak about hate crimes committed against them.

We need to listen to immigrants who are scared to walk outside.

We need to listen to indigenous peoples who are fighting for the land to remain untouched — in the sacred state in which God created it.

We need to listen to conversations about privilege and power bearing more weight than people.

We need to listen to African Americans who question our incarceration system.

There is a story we follow at Christmas time. My two children will be in a pageant on Saturday to show this story, and my oldest son, who’s playing Joseph, will say for the audience to hear:

“Hello. Is there any room for us?”

People of color are asking this same question today.

In the story, they said there was no room at the inn, and we still say it today.

There’s no room.

There’s no room for people of color, especially the poor ones. Because there is no room in our churches, social circles, school systems, and government.

People of color are forced out to the caves, to the hidden places, just like the cave Jesus was born in, like the cave his mother, a woman of color, birthed him in.

I grew up believing that Jesus was white, birthed in a nicely arranged barn on a soft pile of hay laying in a crib.

What if he was born in the dirt and muck on a cold, lonely night by the dim radiance of one bright star?

What if he was born beneath spider webs, into dank air — the Savior, who we claim to celebrate.

If we cannot accept the color of his skin, his culture, his identity and makeup, how can we accept the people in our midst, the ones that Jesus resides with, tells us to care for, says belong to the kingdom?

We should see Jesus as he was and is, and in the wait of Advent, search our own hearts to ask how we are caring for those around us who are neglected most by our American society.

We need to know Jesus in his skin. We need to work to repair what we’ve broken in this country, for the sake of future generations who wish to celebrate the Advent season in a way that honors the gospel of a Jewish peacemaker who turned the world upside down.

Advent is not truly Advent without that knowledge, and we are not truly following Christ until we accept that he was not an American baby born to an American mother.

And if we cannot make room for them in our churches and in our government, we cannot claim to know and honor the true story of a King born as a poor baby, a Jewish baby, to a world that even then, didn’t want him.

Kaitlin Curtice is a Native American Christian writer, speaker and worship leader. She is an author with Paraclete Press and writes at www.kaitlincurtice.com, on the intersection of culture and spirituality. 

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