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Christmas past and present | Worship

 

Last updated 12/23/2020 at 9:46pm



He dubbed himself, “great.” He was feckless, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, and desperately afraid of being seen as a loser. When they told him that another king was about to be born, he ordered the slaughter of infants in Bethlehem.

He was a ruler without shame, intellect, empathy, or honesty. To borrow from David Brooks, he was “strangely untethered to the truth.”

King Herod the Great presided over Galilee in the days of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Thoughtful readers will appreciate the similarities between then and now. We too live in a time of failed leadership and gaslighting pettiness.

Christmas appeals to the best in us: joy, hope, love and peace on Earth. Christmas also shows us the worst. It is a story about events and people in the distant past, but it also a story about us. We can’t read it without being reminded of the plight of the oppressed and the perils of unchecked power.

Christmas is about a God, who identifies with the poor and marginalized, instead of the powerful. Christmas is about a child born far from home. Christmas is about a refugee family searching for safety in a hostile country. Christmas is about a young couple, whose lives are turned upside down by the demands of a corrupt empire’s taxation policy designed to favor the rich.

Perhaps most compelling of all, Christmas is about believing what a woman said about her sexual experience. The young Mary, mother of our Lord, is not shamed, doubted, blamed or silenced. Her disclosure is remembered, trusted and appreciated. It changed the world.

Technology, economics, politics and culture have all changed in so many ways, yet the Christmas story remains as poignant and powerful as ever.

While we look forward to the promise of a vaccine and the changes of a New Year, we look back at the marvel of the first Christmas and our hope is renewed.

The self-appointed “greats” in the past and in the present never last long.

The core of the Christmas story, both then and now, is about a God who connects with the least, who takes the side of the impoverished and who ends up in a manger nurtured by a woman who dared to tell the truth.

 

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