The Politics of Christmas
Published 6:49 am Thursday, December 23, 2021
By Jonathan Tobias In this most wonderful time of the year, we usually keep politics and economics at arm’s length, deferring these cranky subjects to a later time when we have to do things we’d rather not do.
But Christmas is, at heart, essentially these things.
The Archangel Gabriel thought so. This is what he said to the Virgin Mary when he announced that Christmas was going to happen:
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“And He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1.32-33).
Just as we sing in the carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”: “Glory to the Newborn King.”
That is a political statement. The Child lying in the Manger is the King for all the ages. And frankly, this is the only “politics” and “economics” that Christianity really knows.
Christianity has only had one king. Anything else, in history, was anything less.
We’ve had our other kings and emperors. And, unfortunately, we’ve suffered tyrants and despots, dictators and führers (and a lot of obnoxious pretenders). But they were never the real thing.
The King of the Kingdom of God institutes a politics and economics that rise above our partisan squabbles of Republicans and Democrats, progressives and conservatives, capitalists and socialists. The ideologies of nationalism and racism, authoritarianism and modernism (along with anti-modernism) are all alien to the Kingdom of God.
This King (of the Kingdom of God) sure isn’t Wall Street. Against the common economic sense of always looking out for the bottom line, this King says
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20.35). And “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6.20).
And this King sure isn’t self-promoting and power-mad. He is not brash, or vulgar, or arrogant, or domineering, or violent. As the center and model of all humanity, He simply cannot be inhumane, ever. He’s a different kind of King, with a radically different kind of power and politics. He thought of Himself as a Servant, not as a boss or brand. He was willing to put Himself down so that others (like all of us) might be lifted up.
Unlike the Strong Men of the world, this King was willing to pay the ultimate price for His people.
And alone, as the only True King, He rose for them and gave life to them.
Of all the stories that circulate in the Christmas season, it is Charles Dickens’ short story, “The Christmas Carol,” that best reflects the politics and economics of Christmas. The Scrooginess of Scrooge lay precisely in the dark ways of the world – violence in politics, and domination in economics.
Scrooge was invited by the Ghosts of Christmas to give up his Scrooginess. To give freely. To forgive. To love. To give himself away. To put down his ego for the sake of Joy and the Feast.
And he does, because he drops his own lesser, defective politics and economics, and adopts that of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace.
In these last few weeks, I’ve seen streams of people hustling and bustling in holiday cheer. I’ve seen generosity in the key of life and joy, especially in the outpouring of personal help in the aftermath of tornadoes. I’ve seen the definition of splendor in houses festooned with lights. I’ve seen our town’s Christmas Parade, children with shining faces of expectation.
In this most wonderful time of the year, the tightfisted economics of the cranky Scrooge is overcome.
Welcome to the politics of joy and grace, the neverending rule of the Prince of Peace.
Glory to the Newborn King.
An award winning columnist, Jonathan Tobias can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.