Christmas State of the Union blog
Wednesday 14th December 2016 @ 11:50 pm
There is nothing new or breathtakingly original about the thoughts contained in this blog – but for those who like to consider other angles on the Christmas narrative … here is my annual ‘Homily’ from Carols by Glowstick – or what I like to pretend is my annual stab at trying to push the Christmas narratives beyond the children with tea–towels wrapped across their heads …
I have attended a few Chrismassy things so far this Advent … there has even been a showing of ‘Love Actually’ in my apartment … all these christmassy things! They are serene, entertaining and –to use a word I don’t like but conveys my feelings – ‘cute.’ The experiences of this time of the year undoubtedly bring a warmth & softening of heart …
So why can they leave me cold? Even in this warm weather.
I know why.
It is because often, the traditional sharing of the Christmas narratives miss the heart of what the writings in Luke and Matthew want us to know about the birth of the Messiah. And something inside bugs me, to the extent that, I wonder if, when we bring up children spending the majority of their first 12 Christmases with tea–towels wrapped round their heads pretending to be shepherds, wisemen or sheep (costumes seem interchangeable) we are creating a happy–christmas–scene that’s hard to break out of in adult life.
Yes, maybe I am just getting too old.
But then again, maybe I think the message of Christmas is too important to be largely ignored.
God dwelling amongst humanity is the most significant event to happen in history – there would be no Easter without Christmas.
For the Spirit creator of the universe (and God is Spirit as Scripture reminds us) to put on human skin is scandalous. But it is also much more …
The story subverts our normal world and, in particular, it subverts the narratives that the powerful want to tell.
Note. When we read Christ was ‘born of a Virgin’ we are being alerted to the fact that this child is different. There is nothing expected or normal about this birth … ordinary life must take a back seat.
Note. When we read the child is ‘born a King’ – he is not greeted by kings, by the centers of power and control. The news of his birth is told to King Herod by wise men from the East, who are not, therefore, Jews. They’re from Persia – from Iran/Iraq … so baby Jesus is recognized & revered by foreigners, outside his clan – ‘others’ if you will. So ordinary Clan and family life must also take a back seat.
And, When we read on – it is shepherds – the ritually impure & marginalised – who greet this new born King, (born in a back alley in an obscure provincial town.) The shepherds are the manual night–shift workers in the fields, and they get to worship him first. So, normal etiquette and religious process must take a back seat.
All of this subverts the world of what it means to be a king – a baby, born to an unmarried immigrant, travelling to find a space. This turns notions of power upside down. Politics is challenged and reversed. And so, religion, which thinks it has God in its pocket … also has to take a back seat.
And then, get this. Somehow the Angels proclaim this event as ‘Good news?’ But this child is bringing the upside down world of God. And so, to the holders of power, he does not bring good news at all!
To the holders of power ‘normal business’ is threatened by this child – we don’t have to go far into the story to see one outcome, where the powerful are so threatened. What is called the ‘massacre of the innocents’ is such a sad biblical image of what power will do when threatened … horribly played out on our TV screens in Aleppo over these last days. We are seeing the massacre of innocents in a city in the middle east has left many of us broken and confused as to why/how such a terrible thing could happen.
The complex inter–play of power and religion and violence is leaving parts of this world crushed. The desire to be powerful, and to use power to keep power is a deep human base instinct. There is nothing stronger, more powerful, than the power of death – and the power to cause death.
When political power in Palestine was threatened 2000 years ago, the throne called for death. When the power of the individual is threatened 2000 years later in America, the answer by the NRA is ‘ we just need more guns.’ When the complexities of power in todays middle east lead to violence and brokenness, the answer is, ‘my bomb is bigger than yours.’
The child born ‘Prince of Peace’ cries out for something different.
Power is not ‘wielded over.’
THE power of the universe, it seems, stoops to dwell, to understand, to be amongst. And flees as a refugee when the weapons of the world come in pursuit.
This Prince of Peace,
this heavenly King,
this child in a manger,
is surrounded by violence from beginning to end,
because the world cannot cope with him.
I don’t see this stuff in the nativity plays around me. And I know why.
It is because the real story of Christmas brings us discomfort.
And it should. Because something totally different is being brought into the world. And because of it, everything is now different.
So, what is the dream for difference? I’ll finish with this:
Here is the dreamed for different world, that the prophet Isaiah portrays, as he proclaims God’s dream for the world.
A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, …
The life–giving Spirit of God will hover over him,the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and God. God will be all his joy and delight. He won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay. He’ll judge the needy by what is right, render decisions on earth’s poor with justice. …
The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the young goat. Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them. Cow and bear will graze the same pasture … and the lion eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent. Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on God’s holy mountain. The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God–Alive–and–Present.
Did you hear it? Peace, mercy, justice, equality & equity, compassion and love.
In the midst of the children with tea–towels wrapped around their heads, take heart, if you look for it, you might find that the power to Love, Actually is all around …
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