“I’m tired of politics and politicians! Maybe Christmas will give us a break!” That’s a comment I overheard in the grocery store this week.
We could all use a reprieve from the rancorous partisan wrangling going on in Washington and on social media.
It seems that hate, cruelty, violence, greed, dishonesty, deception, and disrespect have been normalized and now dominate political rhetoric and practice.
Can’t we just put politics aside–sit beside a warm fire, wrap gifts, sing “Jingle Bells,” and dream of a white Christmas?
Perhaps such an escape from the world of ideological warfare over taxes, immigration, poverty, homelessness, religious divisions, and abuse of power would help us all.
But there is a problem! Those same realities exist in the first Christmas as recounted by the Gospels. Emperor Augustus issued an executive order requiring that everyone register to be taxed. Compliance required that everyone return to their birthplace.
A young pregnant unmarried peasant girl, Mary, and her fiancé, Joseph, had to travel to a remote hamlet. Unable to find housing, they lodged in a barn.
There in the darkness of the night, surrounded by farm animals, Mary gave birth to a son, without the aid of medical care. She wrapped him in a common cloth and placed him in a cattle trough.
Rumors circulated that this child of Mary and Joseph, Jesus, was the Messiah, God’s anointed, from the lineage of mighty King David.
Threatened by a potential rival, King Herod ordered the slaughter of all males under age two. To escape the violence in their home country, Mary and Joseph became immigrants in Egypt.
So, as recounted by Luke and Matthew, the first Christmas was a political event! God entered the messy, divisive, violent world of worldly politics.
Politics is about power, its definition and use. Christmas is about God’s politics, God’s definition and exercise of power.
Here are the images of God’s power:
- a baby born among the homeless,
- an immigrant child escaping violence,
- a carpenter/preacher speaking truth to prevailing religious and political power,
- a compassionate healer of the sick who welcomes outcasts,
- the crucified Jesus extending forgiveness to thieves and a violent mob,
- the Risen Christ, still bearing the scars of crucifixion,
- the Living Christ present in the longing for wholeness, justice, and peace.
The answer to our current politics of destruction and dysfunction is God’s Christmas politics of compassion and justice. We most properly celebrate by
acts of mercy and justice toward the poor, vulnerable, and powerless
welcoming the outcasts and strangers
caring for the sick and frail
comforting the grieving and dying
visiting the imprisoned and lonely
practicing forgiveness in a culture of vengeance
living and demanding honesty and integrity
trusting the power of love over coercion and domination
cultivating confidence in the ultimate triumphant of God’s love!
God’s Christmas politics WILL win!