This morning I heard my mother singing Christmas Shoes between little fits of tears and choked gasps, so I knew there was no stopping Christmas this year. It was here. And even though my Nana is in North Carolina with my cousins who she “loves as well, Kevin, stop being such a selfish brat,” this year instead of staying with us like the good Lord intended when he blessed me with a Nana, things feel generally… Well, Christmas-y. We’ve been making stuff for Christmas brunch, I’ve still not ordered my brother’s gift off amazon yet- things are all as they should be.
So I wanted to take a little time to reflect on one little Christmas topic. And it’s not one I’ve heard explored a whole lot, at least around Christmas time itself. And that’s power.
Luke is a cool book. There’s a lot going on in it, but it is one of two gospels that chooses to start at the start and includes a birth account of Jesus. And it’s interesting, yet somewhat unsurprising that Luke uses the context of Jesus’ birth in the way that he does. Luke’s whole gospel carries an overarching theme and preoccupation with the poor, and emphasizes that Christ came, lived, died for, and saved every soul on earth, regardless of status, race, class, or love for Texan grandchildren compared to North Carolinian grandchildren. So how does one lay out this theme? By starting with it.
Before Jesus even shows up, we’re told of two major powers and a third that becomes more significant later on. The first two are Herod and Caesar Augustus. A king and an emperor, two figureheads of political and social power in the time and land that Jesus was coming into. Status, wealth, and command over others. This was what power looked like. This is what power still looks like.
Another power structure mentioned was Zechariah’s being a part of the priesthood, a hierarchy that, while not in the same league as Caesar or Herod, serves as a token of a sort of internal power structure of Judaism. Jesus would later butt heads with such power structures as he responds to Pharisees and is called before the Sanhedrin before his death.
But these are the contexts God sends his son into. Systems of power in the world surrounding Jesus and God’s people, and within God’s people themselves.
And he sends a baby. And that baby causes quite a stir for a while.
One of the worst parts of the holidays is the War on Christmas. And I don’t say that because I think we as Christians need to strap up and fight this thing, but because I think we need to do the opposite. When someone or some establishment says “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” it is not Herod calling for the mass killing of all boys in Bethlehem.
If my reaction to something that I find to be “anti-Christmas” is “whoa, where’s Jesus in that?”, then it would seem that Jesus is still the first thing on my mind when it comes to Christmas. When step one is realizing that Jesus is still top of my priority list, that’s a pretty good step to stop at, I’d wager.
God answered a king and an emperor with a baby that hung out with smelly animals. I doubt a fat man in a red suit is anything to get up in arms about.
Jesus’ birth has so much that comes with it. Wonder, beauty, power in unexpected places. God has sent His son into the world to save it. And that boy has to grow up and learn, both about his Father, and about the world around him.
What are the power structures we’re surrounded by? What holds power in our life? Does God need to step into my preoccupation with fighting against a commercial “war” in the same way He stepped into the reigns of two powerful men two thousand years ago?
In the words of the song “Mary Did You Know?”, that little baby is the great I Am. I Am is how God reveals himself in the most powerful way. It is a declaration of constant power and being. He is present cosmically and intimately on the earth and in every living thing.
I pray that I can appreciate that power and allow it to speak and step into my own power structures and those around me. In oppression and struggle, God is with us. In hurt and mourning, God is with us. In celebration and love, God is with us. He has been in every position before us and redeems us for it.
God is good. God is here.
In the words of N*Sync: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.