Christmas approaches and, a few lights and decorations adorn the interior of our house. Small nativity cribs, in the hall and dining room, remind us of the Christ in Christmas and, more potently, the nativity scene in our living room displays potential visitors barred, by a tall wall, from gaining access to the stable, telling of the situation that exists in that part of the Middle East today. The transformative event is centered on a small child born of humble parentage, not in a palace or in the fortresses of the occupying imperial power but rather in second rate guest accomodation.
Even the wise men expected something different, after all the seats of real power are always quite prestigiously situated. They stumble on their way but, meanwhile, the good news had already been broadcast to the sheperds and, they were the first to come to the Christ child. The men from the seats of learning are beaten to the post by these herdsmen. Values are turned on their head.
Sadly, it wouldn't be long before the wise and learned, serving the purposes of their earthly rulers, would distort this message, placing the Christ at the service of secular power rather than serving Him. A message of love and hope to the poor and humble becomes a religion of fear and subservience to ones earthly masters.
The child, born in humble circumstance, grew up to challenge the politics of greed, hatred and idolatory. Where he put the will of his heavenly father first, after his death and resurrection, he became the tool of the powerful who saw themselves as being God's representatives on earth.
Those who seek to follow the way of Jesus, who take up their cross, are likely to find little favour with either religious or secular authority. They will be tempted, at every turn, to betray their calling in order to obtain advancement in their place of work, told to be realists and not idealists. The call of Jesus is not for what he can do for me, but rather a challenge to us to serve our fellow men in the cause of justice and dignity.
As long as we stand by, and aquiesce, in the violence and injustice of our world we are kicking and bruising that child born in a troubled Middle East two millenia ago. I, myself, am a weak and wayward follower but, in Him I have my hope.