Poverty At The Incarnation

Baby Jesus, when Mary birthed you in Bethlehem, I don’t suppose you noticed that your wardrobe was lacking. You probably had two changes of clothes, just like little Senna next door. His mother got pregnant out of wedlock too, you know.

So you were Tchotcho, your mother’s firstborn son. At least your parents offered the poor folks’ sacrifice when they presented you in the Temple. Ousmani’s folks did an inexpensive ceremony for him, too.

Was there a hungry season in Nazareth, Jesus, when you were growing up? Maybe before the barley harvest? Here, it’s when we’re waiting for the rice to mature. I don’t know how many times Laye’s gone to bed hungry. His folks tell him not to cry, but to be brave instead. Somehow, I don’t think that helps very much.

Jesus, did you climb in the orange trees to play with your friends, too? You can’t get Amara out of them. He eats so many green ones that his tummy starts to hurt. How about you?

Were your sandals always breaking just like Abou’s? He prefers to go barefoot, except that he keeps getting foot sores. What about you? Bet you have scars from boils on your legs, too.

What was it like watching your folks’ arranged marriage, Jesus? Did Mary and Joseph learn to love each other the way Mariama and Alsana do? I hope so. Since you’re the Lord of All, I know you’ve witnessed the animosity little Mazo sees between his parents.

I bet you looked forward to Passover, Jesus, the way Musa anticipates his religion’s most significant holiday. One of the few times a year when Papa would actually sacrifice a lamb, and everyone could have meat. Normally, it’s little fish caught from the river or rice fields. Lately, it’s been kamba, plain cooked rice. That probably would have tasted good to you after your wilderness temptations.

When did your folks start sending you to synagogue school? Mouctar started at the local religious school when he was nine. Were you already apprenticed to Joseph as a carpenter by that time? It’s sad that Boundouka hasn’t passed his trade onto Abdourhamane. That might have helped him to stay out of trouble.

I bet you saw death up close early, Jesus. How old were you when Joseph died? Did the wailing frighten you? Isifou was just a young man, maybe 20, when they buried his father. They didn’t allow him to cry publicly. It’s not what men do here, you know. Did you feel the weight of taking care of Mary and your siblings? Thankfully, Hibou’s uncles have helped him out some. But now, he’s lost his mother, too.

In your poverty, you identified with the poor. In your death and resurrection, you brought them hope.

Baby Jesus, you came in poverty at Christmas. You lived a poor man’s life, ending in a borrowed tomb. In your poverty, you identified with Musa and Amara and Senna. In your death and resurrection, you brought hope to Laye, Mouctar, and Isifou.

Your mother’s song of praise will forever ring true: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.… His mercy extends to those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but … has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful…” (Luke 1:46-54 NIV)

This piece was originally published by Thrive Ministry on Connection. Thrive is a nonprofit organization that exists to replenish women ministering overseas. To learn more, visit The original wording has been changed slightly for security reasons.

Iya and her husband Chocho love a West African people who follow a different holy book. They work on a beautiful multicultural translation team that has finished the Pentateuch and is working hard on the New Testament. Iya believes her host country has the best mangoes in the world, and if you visit her, she’ll make you a mango pie to prove it. She and Chocho are parents to two adult daughters who grew up in West Africa.
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