Jesus, the breaker of boundaries

Today is Christmas Eve, the night we celebrate Jesus’ arrival into the world, God in-the-flesh, born to simple people in a dirty stall in a time where political authority prevailed and rigid theological constructs kept people in bondage. 

A time like today.

Over the millennia, very little has changed about this same basic story.

Power is found in the strong, the resourced, the “religious”, the comfortable.

Those on the underside of power—the marginalized, the oppressed, the vulnerable—continue to struggle for dignity, value, freedom in a system that is bent against it.

This night we celebrate God, Emmanuel, with us, is born into the world to break all the borders that humans create.

To topple human-made kingdoms.

To tear down walls.

To break down barriers.

To remind us that the Star shines on all of us. 

None more, none less. No one more worthy or less worthy.

Jesus, the breaker of boundaries, came into the world to do a beautiful, wild, and turn-the-world-on-its-head work that we still can’t seem to grasp because it’s so contrary to the way we know.

No matter how much we try to make this all work in our heads, often our souls and actions continue to stay the same: 

Us against them continues to thrive.

The comfortable striving to keep our comfort while so many others suffer.

The false notion that the system somehow is fair if people will just play by the rules (their rules).

The slanted histories and inequality is weaved throughout our culture and we keep pretending it’s not as bad as it is.

A few months ago I saw a painful meme (we are used to those these days, from all sides) that I still can’t even believe made its rounds but reveals the true sentiment of many—“Heaven has a wall with strict immigration policies. Hell has open border policies.”  

Take that one in this Christmas Eve. 

Yep, this is a true belief of many.

I get that is people’s interpretation of scripture because it represents the strain of theology many have been taught.  

But this special tender night we remember, celebrate, and honor Jesus cannot be about creating bigger walls or stronger boundaries or yet another way to separate.

No, Jesus is about disrupting legalities, rigid theologies, oppressive systems and revealing what is possible because “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).  God, made flesh, to show us a better way–a way that will always be contrary to the powers that prevail. 

Yet, we are called to heal the sick, restore dignity where it’s been lost, and break the boundaries that need breaking because that’s what Jesus consistently did, from the day he was born until the day he died and defied death as well. 

Most people I know are all over the place when it comes to faith and life right now. This isn’t a simple holiday and the Jesus story the way many of us were taught—neat, tidy, clear–isn’t one that resonates. 

Messy, dirty, complicated, confusing, paradoxical is far more like it. 

However, what does compel us, what does keep us in, what stirs the deepest places in our hearts it the belief that God–embodied in Jesus–changes us and the world. It ignites the spark of reality that we get to participate in the Christmas story not just this season but 12 months of the year.

To be people who break the traditional boundaries of religion, politics, life, systems.  

Who advocate for the immigrant.

Stand for the oppressed.

Sacrifice comfort. 

Learn our true history and tell it. 

Work for equality.

Restore dignity.

Live freely. 

Embody hope. 

It’s a stretch. It’s unmasterable. We will always fall short and many of our traditional systems will prevail despite all our efforts. 

That’s good for us to remember this night. 

Tonight’s not a night where the world magically steps into line and things are the way we want them to be. No, it’s a reminder that Jesus is the great disruptor and that we have to be incredibly careful not to just replace unhealthy power with the same form and a different twist.

We are always in danger of this; tonight reminds me of my humanity and why I still follow Jesus. 

There are a lot of walls to knock down and bridges to cross in the upcoming year but tonight may we pause and rest in the beauty and hope of the Christmas Story—the story that doesn’t make sense, that we can’t fully wrap our head around, that will challenge us in ways that hurt, inspire, and cost us. 

That is what comes with the birth of the Breaker of Boundaries.

Jesus. Emmanuel.

God, in the thick of us.

God, with us. 

God, who we can’t fully make sense of no matter how hard we try. 

God, the breaker of boundaries—then, now, and forevermore.

Jesus, born into the world to break all the borders humans create.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

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