• Sometimes scripture passages become too familiar…

Candy canes. Angelic music. Will Ferrell in yellow tights. Christmas is a magical time. Many of us celebrate this season with glittery wonder.

But did you know that Christmas is…subversive? Unnoticed to our modern and familiar ears, the Christmas story is jam-packed with intrigue and sedition.

When Mary learned that she would have the unprecedented privilege of bearing the messiah she wrote “He knocked tyrants off their high horses, and pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; while the callous rich were left out in the cold.” Apparently, the babe in swaddling clothes was not going to pander to the wealthy bigshots.

And when the royal heralds announced the birth of the newborn king, they did not don their regalia and shout their proclamation in the palaces of Rome or Alexandria. They appeared to sleepy shepherds. The regular folks. The George Baileys, not the Mr. Potters. Apparently this royal birth was not seeking favor from powerful despots in the normal smoky rooms of elite back-scratching.

King Herod was either smart enough to see the Christ child as a threat to his power structure or just plain paranoid. He ordered his wretched legion to slaughter an entire town’s toddlers. That first Christmas came gently and boldly into a world with vicious systems, powers and authorities firmly in place.

Just like the message and ministry of Christ himself, a new world was being revealed. A world where everyone is important and valuable. Everyone is worth love and respect. Everyone is worth dying for…and living for. But those with power violently resisted that message. They were not interested in sharing their bounty with “those people.” And this same conflict continues.

At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. But the Christmas story is mocked when American church-goers worship a Jesus who kneels at the altars of worldly power: “Christian” nationalism, white privilege, economic exploitation and other greasy tyrants.

Does your church make a deliberate effort to shun any acquiescence to the systems at play in our world? Whether it is racism, partisan Christianity, “Holy America” or materialism? Because powers like these laugh with glee when the people of God join in their rebellious systems. Are you wary of any social force, cultural trend or commonly-held practice that works against the compassion and justice of the same Kingdom of God that the angels celebrated over the Bethlehem countryside?

The subversive story of Jesus began before the manger was filled with fresh hay and blankets. This year how will you celebrate a subversive Christmas?