At that time, an executive order was issued from the White House that there should be a nation-wide census. This was the first such census and was taken while Quayle was Senator of Indiana. And everyone traveled back to their hometown to be counted.
Since Joe was part of the David family, he went from Nowheresville, in Timbuktu, down to the David family’s hometown: New York, New York. He went taking with him his fiancee Mary, who was pregnant. While they were there the baby came, and Mary gave birth to her firstborn child, a boy, and she wrapped him in some old rags and laid him in a storage bin in a garage, because they couldn’t afford a room, even in the Bronx.
Meanwhile, down in Yonkers, there were taxi drivers gathered in a parking lot waiting through the night for dispatch. Suddenly a messenger from God stood there in front of them, and a divine aura rippled through the air all around them. They were terrified.
But the messenger said, “Don’t be afraid. See here, I’ve got great news for you – great news for everyone. Today, in the Bronx, your savior has arrived. He’s the one destined to lead you. And here’s how it’ll go down: you’ll find a baby wrapped in rags in a storage bin.”
Again, suddenly a whole convention of messengers appeared, singing about God, saying: Glory to God in heaven. May God’s favorite people be at peace.”
When the messengers had evaporated back into the sky, the taxi drivers said to one another, “Let’s drive up to the Bronx and see if we can find out what’s going on.” So they drove, fast, and found Mary and Joe, and the baby in the storage bin. And when they saw it, they told the story they’d heard about this child. Everyone who heard it was incredulous about what the taxi drivers said. But Mary remembered all these things, and wondered about them.
The taxi drivers went back, thanking God, because everything they’d heard and seen was exactly as the messenger had told them it would be.
In the midst of the imperial effort to make sure everyone is counted, the gospel unfolds among all the people who are forgotten.
Wherever you live there is someplace in a city near you that has been overlooked by the people who are writing the history books. It’s where the working-class people hang out nights waiting for work, and where the people who can’t afford even the cheapest hotel rooms pass the nights in the back seats of their cars with all their worldly possessions jammed into the trunk.
Wherever you live, somewhere nearby there is a place that teenagers give birth to babies out of wedlock and without health insurance or prenatal care, who still have hopes that their child will grow up to be somebody special, or at the very least won’t end up in a morgue or a prison before age 2, or 7, or 17, or 25. Perhaps they have these hopes for their forgotten children have a chance because some crazy taxi driver on the trip to the emergency room delivery reassured them that it was so.
But what makes the Christmas story so real is that, contrary to what we may think most of the time, the crazy taxi driver relocated from someplace we have trouble finding on a map, and who hardly knows how to speak English – the taxi driver is right about this child. And if God has anything to do with it, she will grow up to lead her people out of the projects.
But for this to happen, the rest of us who hear the story also need to recognize the truth of the taxi drivers’ witness, instead of being incredulous. The rest of us have to recognize and believe who this forgotten one born of forgotten parents really is. In other words, the rest of us have to come to terms with our intentional forgetting, our dismissal, of these places and people as being of little or no real consequence.
The whole gospel that follows is predicated on the the story about how, contrary to what you might hear in some churches, God lives out in the garage and in all the children born in the forgotten places. Nothing Jesus says or does in the gospel introduced by this story makes any sense if we forget that he began his life as a forgotten child.
This Christmas, here’s hoping we’ll remember longer than for just a starlit evening.