I am not a Facebook subscriber but understand that a clever comment was posted describing the predicament of one who took all the Jews and foreigners out of his nativity scene and was left with only a jackass and a handful of sheep. While this is a humorous quip it can also be a sad commentary on those who continue to persecute Jews and restrict those eligible for asylum or immigrant status based on race or nationality. In the story of the birth of Jesus if you took out all the Jews not even the Holy Family would remain. The Wise Men as foreigners would not be there either. It brings up the question, "Who is welcome at the manger?"

It is regrettable that some believe that Jesus' ministry was only to save those who would become Christians. In this scenario heaven is not freely offered to all the children of God but only to those who are baptized and commit themselves to Jesus. Members of other religions are assumed to be ineligible for heaven. Thus, all who died before the ministry of Jesus went to hell, including Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah because they were not baptized Christians. The assumption is that only Christians are welcome to the manager. Even those who lead exemplary lives by loving the Source of creation and their neighbor fail the test because they don't have a Christian name tag.

This is a grievous misunderstanding of the love of God, and if practiced leaves a jackass and sheep at the manger. Proof texting from the Bible with the assumption that God dictated every word, including multiple changes of mind from Old Testament times to New Testament days, is cruel and biblically incorrect. By contrast, those who enter into the dimensions of God's love find that there are no exceptions to God's love. Everyone is born a child of God, beloved and welcomed in their diversity. Creation itself yearns to participate in the life of the Divine Mystery. That reality is awesome, beyond our ability to capture or to describe in words, doctrines, or religious practices. But this Mystery can be felt in our hearts in an intimate way. The Spirit of God is available within each of us with a variety of labels.

Be wary of making judgments about who is eligible to receive the gifts of the Prince of Peace. God's method of being selective is to include everyone in God's love. Jews and foreigners are not excluded. People of other religious expressions are not excluded. People with different sexual orientations are not excluded. People of any race are included. God's love, seen so clearly in the life and ministry of Jesus, includes us all.

"God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." (1 John 4:16)