Christmas is a radical statement about including and accepting those who are not like us.
You’d never think this from observing the way many in our culture today celebrate the season.
An alien freshly landed from Mars would be excused if they thought it was a holiday to celebrate the gods of materialism, individualism and selfish indulgence!
But a close reading of the Christmas story leads to a completely different conclusion. It radically asserts that when the Creator of the universe chose to visit earth in human form, it was to dwell not with a royal family in a luxurious palace as would be expected, but with a peasant family among an oppressed, colonised people.
The announcement of this auspicious occasion was made not to the high and mighty but to despised and socially insignificant shepherds.
But it goes even farther than this! A reading of the family tree that Jesus was born into in the first chapter of the book of Matthew reveals some names that most Jewish families would have preferred to stay hidden. The first surprise is that the list features five women. Jewish genealogies of the time did not feature women at all.
The second surprise is what type of women made the list.
The first, Tamar was a daughter in law of Jewish ancestor Jacob. When her husband died, she realised that his family was sidelining her. To remedy the situation, she disguised herself and seduced her father in law into sleeping with her. The resultant child meant that the family could no longer ignore her!
The second woman, Ruth, was from Moab. The Moabites were greatly despised by the Jewish people because they were seen as children of incest. They were said to have originated when their ancestor Lot slept with one of his daughters.
The third woman Rahab ran a brothel in the city of Jericho. She chose to collaborate with the Israelites when they invaded her city and as a result received honorary citizenship. The fourth woman, simply referred to as the wife of Uriah, was seduced by King David who then assassinated her husband when she became pregnant, in order to hide his crime.
The fifth woman is Mary, Jesus’ mother, who must have faced great ridicule from her fellow villagers when she said that her pregnancy was caused by the Holy Spirit. It took the intervention of an angelic dream to keep her fiancé from deserting her!
This is not a politically correct list! It radically includes those whose society would have scandalised and tried hard to ignore.
What this says is that Christmas, properly celebrated, must be a time of inclusion. Rather than a time for focus on self, it needs to be a time when we focus on the down and out. When we bless those around us. When we include those that ‘people like us’ would not normally hang out with.
Have a merry inclusive Christmas!
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