By Brittney Hartley
It is an unwed refugee mother who carries Jesus. The workers in the field see the angels. The animals bear witness. The overcrowded neighborhood receives God. A woman is the only who anoints him. A woman is the first to witness his resurrection. He is not baptized from the institution, but from a wild man in a loincloth. He flips tables in a way that people would call irreverent. When the most vulnerable cannot reach him, holes are cut in roofs to make way. He challenged a new kind of love, love that goes beyond your mother and father and tribe. Love that extends beyond tribalism, beyond nationality, beyond our silly little exclusive clubs and rituals where we alone claim to be gods most favorite.
These are likely just stories by now. Stories so compelling they became legend. Perhaps they passed on from generation to generation because there was more something interesting going on than mere historical accuracy. All good stories have a bit of legend. And this story tells us that life isn’t found at the heads of institutional hierarchies, or our vain attempts at lying, or with our wealth, or our social masks we wear. Life is found in humility, in honesty, in truth, in the desert, on the edges, and in surprising places.
I don’t do Santa with my children, or teach them that they were born broken. But we do celebrate what Jesus was all about. When they asked Jesus when the kingdom of god was coming was he said the kingdom of heaven is here. It’s now. It’s this. It’s life and it’s life more abundantly. It’s setting your ego aside and finding an easy yoke in its place. These past few years I’ve met and cried and counseled with those who find themselves on some margin. Some wilderness. Some edge. Maybe it’s those who are LGBTQ. Or women claiming their voice for the first time. Or people who have left organized religion and are painfully rebuilding their spiritual home brick by brick. Or someone putting up a boundary with their family for whatever reason. Or someone trying to navigate their faith within their community but wanting to make room for more authenticity and expression.
Many call this place the outskirts. The dangerous. The radical. The disobedient. The lost sheep. But the scriptures call this place the wilderness. And it’s where God was always found. In the closet of your heart, the dark place where you don’t want anyone to see. It’s from that honest place that life and light (or whatever word you choose that to be) can be found.