The bright and cheerful colours of Christmas usher in a season of hope and expectation. Airports and highways are busy with people travelling to their childhood homes so that they can feel the love and warmth from family and friends. Wherever you find yourself, carols fill the air with joyful melodies and peace-filled lyrics. It feels like anything can happen at Christmas. Maybe that’s because, at the first Christmas, everything changed.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem was under the colonial occupation of Rome. The beginning chapters of Matthew recognize King Herod as Rome’s appointed overseer, creating social disparity for the Jewish population. The hope of a safe and secure home was far from their reach. They desperately needed a voice to dispel the darkness, someone willing to speak truth and stand up against injustice.
Suddenly, Magi from the East announced the birth of a king who would fulfil their hopes and, at the same time, become the greatest threat to the empire. King Herod would do anything to maintain his power. He was ruthless, using his strength, authority and fear to ensure his rule.
We rarely recognize this part of the Christmas story, yet at the birth of Jesus, the world was shaped by the realities of colonization. In The Liberation of Christmas: The Infancy Narratives in Social Context, New Testament scholar Richard A. Horsley writes that “Christmas celebrates the birth of a peasant child, as the true Saviour of a people who had been conquered.” Yet in the midst of colonization, the birth of Jesus gave vision to a path of reconciliation.
Jesus was the hope of salvation for all the world. He was a light to the nations. He came to restore creation and reconnect a people with their Creator. The Gospels reveal this story: the Sermon on the Mount restores misplaced power, women and children are treated with dignity and respect, religious and political leaders are questioned, and barriers are broken.
These messages never seem to lose their relevance because the world, as it is, continues to struggle with social inequalities, ethnic separation, gender hierarchies and economic disparities. The world, as it is, says our value is based on our skin tone, our worth is dependant on our paycheque and our credibility is tied up with our gender.
Jesus, whose birth created a path to reconciliation, has become a tool of colonization in North America. The name of Jesus has been misrepresented—used to subjugate nations of Indigenous people, separate children from their families and discredit traditional ceremonies, languages and ways of life. The church, which is called to usher in a gospel of hope, peace, joy and love, has instead chosen a gospel of power and dominion.
As Christmas approaches, I find myself reflecting on a world that needs Jesus. The same Jesus who entered a broken world and offered a refreshing glimpse of hope. The same Jesus who walked in unexpected places with unaccepted people. The same Jesus who came to recognize the beauty of culture and identity rather than to question its importance. The same Jesus who came to restore the entirety of creation and not just humanity.
I often get caught up in the nostalgia of Christmas—the smell of gingerbread, fresh falling snow, chestnut praline lattes, and a perfectly placed Nativity scene. And while I don’t want to disrupt those beautiful moments, I also want us to be challenged to hold both realities in our cupped hands—that in the midst of a weary world, Jesus is a bringer of justice and a source of reconciliation.
I find hope in the God who became a baby. A Creator who loves and ultimately demands justice. As a desperate, weary world cried out, a thrill of hope was born.
Captain Crystal Porter is the associate territorial Indigenous ministries consultant and divisional Indigenous ministries consultant in the Prairie Division.
Photo: erlucho/iStock via Getty Images Plus
This story is from: