Tag Archives: Jaipur

Building a Christmas Wall

Mother&Child Jaipur Train

Jaipur, India

Photography by D. Plasman

The story of Christmas in essence is the story of a middle eastern family seeking refuge in a hostile world. What I heard in the most recent presidential debate is that we’d better close our borders, send the illegals home, and protect ourselves by building a wall that will dwarf all walls. The two narratives don’t match. Here’s my take on the Christmas story, an excerpt from my book available at Amazon: Jesus, a Life – Daily Reflections on the Gospel of Luke.

“God’s arm is strong and has scattered the proud who trust in themselves. God has brought down the powerful from important places, and lifted up the humble. God has filled the stomachs of the hungry, and sent away the rich with nothing. God has been merciful to the people of Israel, just as God promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.” After three months, Mary returned to her home. (Luke 1:51-56)

The second half of Mary’s prayer has endured a variety of labels: a war cry, a political platform, a revolutionary’s manifesto, even a subversive tract. Mary’s prayer moves beyond the personal and private into the reality of God’s great reversals. What starts as a lullaby is now laced with landmines.

Borrowing again from her ancestors, Mary uses imagery uttered by Moses (Exodus 15:1-18) and Deborah (Judges 5:1-31) and David (Psalms 33, 47, 136). The great deeds of God are declared in the past tense as works already accomplished in the life and history of Israel. However, as past actions, they are experienced in the present and will continue in the future. What God has done, God is doing, and God will continue to do.

If we find ourselves among the world’s humble, hungry, and poor, Mary’s Magnificat is powerful assurance of a God who sides with the oppressed and one day will turn the tables. However, if a proactive God troubles our status quo sensibilities, then we tend to spiritualize Mary’s radical message and fashion to our liking a domesticated God.

No doubt, it is from their parents—especially their mothers—that John the Baptist and Jesus learn the radical nature of living into God’s ongoing transformation of the world. From their parents, they learn of God’s deep connection with those who suffer disconnect. From their parents, they learn that God won’t let things sway forever in favor of the rich and powerful. From their parents, they learn of the God who stands in solidarity with the weakest and most vulnerable.

Where have you seen the great reversals of God?


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The Jaipur Kid


 Jaipur, India

This is Naadir.  His name means “rare” or “dear.”  We met while standing along a chaotic and busy street in Jaipur, India.  Naadir was begging for money, money he needed to eat, money he needed to feed his family, money he needed to buy the uniform required for school.  He needed money to survive and that’s why he kept begging.  He begged because he knew I was an American.

When I tried to ignore him (like the guidebooks told me to) and turned my camera in the direction of an interesting blue rickshaw, Naadir followed me, stretched his neck and leaned his head into the frame of my next shot.  Naadir kept begging me for money.  Did I mention he kept asking for money?

Not all I’ve written to this point is true.  I did meet this boy on a recent trip to India.  We met in the middle of a street in Jaipur, about a 4-hour train ride from Delhi.  I don’t know his name.  He didn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask.  But Naadir does mean “rare” or “dear.”

I have no idea how many siblings he has or if he attends the local school.  He asked for money lots of times in our thirty-second encounter; that much is true.  He never told me what he needed it for.  I never asked.  I had no small change to give him.

Without knowing much about his situation, I knew that the money I had in my pocket could have changed his life.  Along with rupees, I was carrying more than $500.  That’s more than eight months of income for the family this kid probably belongs to.  My camera and lens were worth four years of wages to those, like many of the 1.2 billion in India, who live on less than $2 a day.

When the traffic light changed, I turned and crossed the street.  Desensitized is one word to describe it.  I’m not sure this is what Jesus meant when he said, “The poor you will always have with you.”

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