Friday, December 25, 2009

From the Margins to the Manger

Shepherds were ritually unclean under Rabbinic law and could not testify in a court of law. But in the Gospel of Luke, it was they, along with the angels, who gave the first testimony to the birth of Jesus.

For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums.
- Bruce Cockburn, "Cry of a Tiny Babe"

African Americans, like shepherds, have often been relegated to the margins of society, and an affinity between the two groups is readily apparent in Langston Hughes's Black Nativity. In one version of the play, now in its eleventh year at the Lorraine Hansbery Theatre in San Francisco, wayward shepherds find their way to the baby Jesus singing songs of musicians who have died in the last year.

This year, the shepherds made sure to include songs by Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. Way to go, shepherds! A nice combination of sacred and secular, paying respects to the King of Pop while on the way to honoring the King of Kings!

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