It’s Christmas! Why on earth are we having an election at this time of the year?
For many, the onset of Christmas questions the appropriateness of holding an election at this time of year … a time devoted to fun and festivities, and dreams of the perfect family Christmas … dreams that we cherish for they ease the harsher realities of life.
But when I read the Christmas story, I find little romantic escapism present. The events begin with a teenage girl who becomes pregnant with a special foretold child. In accepting her state she risks being cut off from family, friends, facing social exclusion, poverty ….
And that’s not the only person whose world is turned upside down. Her fiancé has his dreams dashed when his bride to be reveals she is with child … and not his child … but a child that in some amazing, head stretching way, is God in human form.
And just as they manage to get their heads around the pregnancy, just as they manage to bolster their flailing relationship, events from the world stage intervene.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered ….
We are reminded that this tale of a strained relationship and a teenage pregnancy takes place in real time. This isn’t a fairy tale existence. Israel, like so much of the world at that time, was an occupied state and its overlords, the Romans, called all the shots.
And so begins the long and tortuous journey to Bethlehem … the search for a place to stay, the birth in a mucky outhouse, but it doesn’t end there … for those early days of adjusting to parenthood, which are often cocooned, protected and supported, are interrupted harshly once more as the puppet king Herod, threatened by news of this long awaited child … a child who he hears will be king one day, unleashes a massacre of all the children in Bethlehem in an attempt to shore up his fragile position. The young couple and their precious child are forced to flee for their lives, taking on refugee status in a foreign land.
No, these events are far from romantic … they remind us that Christmas did not originate in a time of frolic and festivity. Christmas is far less about romantic dreams than it is about a God who cares so much for his world that he is prepared to take ridiculous risks, to take human form so that he can be present with us in the mess and murkiness of our existence.
And so this is Christmas …
Far from being an excuse to escape, the Christmas story invites us to engage with the world as it is …. To play our part as we work out in our lives a response to the birth of that God child 2000 years ago; a child whose birth set in motion a new way of being that questions a way of living founded on self-seeking short-termism, looking out for number one. This child initiates the growth of a new Kingdom, a kingdom which flourishes as we engage in acts of inclusive, self-sacrificial love of the other … in which we see the other as they truly are: made in the image of God, precious, cherished and of infinite worth and this planet as a precious fragile gift that reveals God’s goodness.
Some would say that religion and politics don’t mix, but it seems to me that they always have, right from the very beginning. And this Christmastide, yet again, we are invited to engage with the world as it is so that in and through our words and actions we reveal the world as God longs for it to be, a place of peace and joy and love.