The holiday season for Christians is a time for us to remember the ultimate gift God gave to the world in the birth of God’s only son Jesus.
This was no ordinary birth under ordinary circumstances. King Herod, fearing the truth of the Wise Men’s prophecy that the King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem, ordered all male babies under two years old to be executed. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt and momentarily escaped the hands of state.
For black Christians the celebration of this gift in the birth of Jesus takes on a different significance.
Jesus was born in the midst of a kind of state-sanctioned violence that black folks, and indeed black children, are all too familiar with.
Black children are rarely given their childhood.
The assault at Spring Valley High School, where the school’s resource officer dragged and slammed a 16-year-old black girl to the ground, breaking her arm, is just one example of how black children are routinely treated as adults.
Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and VonDerrit Myers are just a few of the countless names of black children who did not escape the chokehold of the state. And there are many other black and brown children, known and unknown, whose lives are at risk because of state-sanctioned violence through the school-to-prison pipeline, extreme poverty, and police harassment.
Like Jesus, these black children have to live with the violence of the state all their lives, and for some, even to the point of death.
What, then, is the message of the birth of Christ to black children and adults?
On one hand, the message can seem bleak. Black children are born in the midst of state-violence and far too frequently die at the hands of the state.
On the other hand, the gift God gave with the birth and the life of Jesus provides us with an alternative script. Black children, like Jesus, can be born in the midst of the worst circumstances and still literally change the world.
Throughout our nation’s history, black children have done just that. During all of our freedom movements, it has been the youth who have inherited and led the revolution. From leading freedom marches to desegregating lunch counters, black children have shaped the contours of our nation.
In the midst of a people that are questioning whether black lives matter, black children, like Jesus, are our hope.
As we celebrate and reflect this holiday season, let us remember black children. They are our gift God has given to the world.