An Undocumented Christmas

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This advent season my meditations have continually taken me to the question, “What would it look like for Jesus to be born in America today?” If God were to come unnoticed to a poor couple now, what would their story be?

As I thought about that question I’ve been unable to escape the themes of immigration running through the Christmas story. Things I missed in previous years have jumped off the pages at me.

  • The background of the story is all about an act of documentation. Luke 2 opens with Caesar needing to count his people, needing to make sure everyone is properly documented. The issue was as important 2,000 years ago as it is today.
  • From what I’ve heard about shepherds they were not at the top of society. As I imagined how the story might play out today, I can’t help but see an angel showing up to a group of undocumented construction workers at the end of a long day. How sweet would the angel’s words sound to a group of men struggling to provide for their families on the margins of society: “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody.”
  • How beautiful is it that the first people to document the birth of the Savior-King were these shepherds? The people who would not have been noticed by society were the ones God chose to be His first century birth certificate, the validation of His existence.
  • Not long after His birth the God of the universe became a refugee, a homeless child in the world He created. How many people around the world today are refugees fleeing violence, persecution, or are seeking a better life? Our Savior knows their story intimately for it is His as well.

Blogger David Henson has asked some of the similar questions related to Jesus’ birth in modern-day America. He says,

This project started with a simple question: “How would Jesus be born today?” My answer to it might make you uncomfortable. It did me.

His answer is this short story, “Christmas, Undocumented“. Reading it was particularly meaningful for me because of the reflections I’ve already mentioned above (download full pdf).

As you read the short story look for the parallels to the original Christmas story. Let it grow your love for your Savior and for the undocumented people He was born to save.

I can’t get away from the fact that when God came into the world He was surrounded by those on the margins, on the periphery of society. In my life may I be a man who follows in the footsteps of my Baby-Savior-King-God.

photo copyright: David Henson

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Posted on December 25, 2011

About destinoeric

A white guy who believes Latinos will change the world, Destinoeric served with Destino from 2008-2013. You can read more of his posts here or on twitter.

4 Responses to An Undocumented Christmas

  1. Donnie Begay says:

    As a native living on Rez I percieve the story playing out exactly the same seeing there are still many sheep herders on the Rez. I feel as though the story is just being retold from a white middle class perspective, not realizing the marginalized havent changed all that much since 2,000 years ago.

    • destinoeric says:


      I don’t think the story is trying to claim that undocumented immigrants are the only marginalized people today, just one example. I think your example of sheep herders on the reservation is another great example and a good reminder that in many places around the world people haven’t changed all that much.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. destinokristy says:

    I really appreciate this perspective, Eric. While I recognize undocumented immigrants are not the only marginalized group in America today, they are the story I have entered into the most these last few years so it was meaningful to me.

    I was also really moved by Henson’s thoughts on how the birth of Jesus wasn’t just a humbling one, but a humiliating one-being born in a manger stripped of basic dignity.  His statement about the birth of Jesus being “an affront” was language I had never connected with the Christmas story before. 

    Thanks. Love your heart and your care for the vulnerable in our midst. 

    • destinoeric says:


      I love the song “Labor of Love” that you introduced me to by Andrew Peterson. It brings back into full view how humiliating and real it must have been to have a baby in a stable. Two thousand years removed I can gloss over that.

      Thanks for helping me learn.