Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas 2014

At this time of year, we remember that God put aside His power and His glory to dwell among us, to live and die as one of us.  He came into the world not in some all powerful theophany, but as the bastard son of an unwed teenaged girl born in a stable in back of an inn in some minor town in a backwater province of the dominant empire of that day.  His parents came to this minor town to fulfill some distant imperial order that the population of that rebellious province be counted and taxed in order to be better controlled.   The local client warlord heard some wild prophecy from three foreigners that another rival king was born in this small town, and so he sent his army to massacre every child in the town under age 2.  The little family barely escaped and fled to Egypt where they lived as refugees.

Almighty God came into the world a homeless child with a price on his head.

The world then, just like the world now and always, was broken with grief and anger.

And in our time filled with people eager for revenge of one kind or another, a world filled with apocalyptic visionaries, religious and political, who want to purify the world by destroying it except for their small remnant, we should remember the angelic proclamation to some shepherds in the surrounding countryside when that child was born.  They did not announce the fiery end of the wicked world, that God is avenged, or anything like that.  They said clearly and unequivocally what exactly was God's will for His creation, peace on earth and good will to all people.  This proclamation came with no asterisks and no conditions; no prerequisite that we believe in such and such, or belong to such and such, or pass such and such test.  Peace and good will were ours to have and ours to share.  This proclamation came not to the Emperor or his ministers, generals, clients, etc. to champions of one kind or another, or to geniuses, but to a small band of underpaid overworked shepherds trying to stay warm on a cold night.

William Blake, The Angels Appear to the Shepherds, 1809


Speaking of peace on earth, good will to all people, something that is unimaginable today actually happened a century ago this Christmas.  Rank and file British and German soldiers laid down their arms on the battlefields and celebrated Christmas together.  And here they are together in this photo from 1914.

German and British soldiers shared a common European culture and a common religion (for the most part) which probably made something like this possible in a way that it is not today.  Our conflicts are more deeply tribal and sectarian.  When we look at our enemies (and when they look at us) we see a wholly alien Other.  It is a lovely thought that we could each take a break from our hatreds for just a day, but I don't think it is likely now.


Fran said...

Christmas blessings to you!

JCF said...

Blake's Angels appear to be Shakers. ;-/

Merry Christmas, Doug!