CHRISTMAS AND THE KINGDOM
This Christmas will be rather different for all of us, not only in our worship, but also in our family gatherings, as we try to survive until this nasty Covid 19 virus has gone away, or we all get the protection of a vaccination. We could however use this strange Christmas to think about its real message, which so often gets lost in the tinsel and festivity of a mid-winter feast.
We all go a bit sloppy at the sight of a new-born baby, which is probably a natural instinct to help the survival of such vulnerable beings. When we see the the nativity scene today however, we know the outcome for that delicate baby, who was born in a stable and before long had become a refugee. He survived his childhood to become our salvation and to die for our sins. His message of peace and healing and promise of his kingdom for us all, was heard and tragically ignored or misunderstood, which led to his death on the cross.
Statistically, the most Christian country in the world is the USA and yet it also has the greatest gap between the rich and the poor and also has the highest level of social disorder problems, such as drugs and crime. America also imprisons a huge number of people. Before you become smug, I have to tell you the UK is not too far behind. We live in a world of huge inequality between the rich countries and the rest (the majority), and within each country between rich and poor.
We are very privileged to live in a democratic country, it is flawed perhaps, but at least we can tell our politicians what we think of their policies and their personal ethics. I would perhaps however recommend some caution when talking to those in power, whether it is your boss or a politician, as other's opinions are not always appreciated. Sometimes we have to use the tactics of the worldly, using a degree of flattery, which leaders always enjoy, before hitting home with our Christian viewpoint.
The vast majority of the world either live in totalitarian states or very flawed democracies where to speak out, even with some flattery included, could still bring death or retribution upon families and whole communities. The test of a true democracy is usually whether its leaders accept satire and humour. I would suggest that President Xi Jinping of China, President Vladimir Putin and a large number of world leaders would not allow any jokes at their expense, and I would imagine nobody who wanted to live until old age would not have made a joke about King Herod 2000 years ago. This puts a huge responsibility on our shoulders to make sure the message that Jesus proclaimed is enacted today, even if it is only in our community or country. We are not asked to be martyrs, but acts of kindness and Christian values can heap coals upon those who cannot accept the kingdom that was initiated by the birth of Jesus.
At Christmas we recollect the birth of Jesus into a turbulent world and see him soon become a refugee from persecution. I wonder where Jesus would be born today? In a slum in Central America or India, or perhaps still in Bethlehem; a town still poverty stricken and riven by unresolvable politics. It is easy to look at the past and say, “It was different then”, but was it? Sometimes we think that the Bible only tells a story of how things were 2000 years ago, but if we really study our Bible and let the text seep into our consciousness, it could change us and the world.
Jesus was a radical man who challenged the religious and political structures of the time to show people his kingdom of peace and justice. He had no armies, only his words, his healing and the power of God working through him. It was not hard for the enemies of justice and peace to kill his body, but they could not destroy his kingdom, and through his resurrection he reigns in glory. Christmas should awaken us again to the radical Jesus, not just the gentle Jesus in the manger. Let us pray that the real meaning of Christmas gets through to those who really need it, and your prayers of “Thy Kingdom Come” can really help. Fr. Terry