Christmas and Power
(Advent Carols, Robinson College, Cambridge - 25.11.2012)
The Christmas narratives dispel myths about how divine power works. They dispel the myth of an omnipotent god, micro-managing the universe from a secret control-room located somewhere outside the material world. A God who is indifferent or invulnerable towards the people he created. The Christmas stories reveal a God of vulnerability, who takes human form, and who redefines power through weak, mortal, human life. The Word became flesh.
Power is not exerted by the Political leaders of the day, be they Herod the Great or Caesar Augustus or Nick Clegg.
Power is not found in religious authorities, or quoting bible at people. Power does not reside with male bishops, or with female bishops, or with any who seek promotion through the ranks of the church.
Power is not even fully exerted by the ideologies of the day, whether personified in the loose woman of Babylon, the Jesus of Christendom or the Gangnam Style dictates of pop culture.
The Advent narrative invites us to receive from the future, a radically different form of power: A power expressed by a God who becomes son to a teenage mum, out in the provinces of the empire, with a feeding trough for a cot. The word became flesh. Not the flesh of an emperor, or philosopher, or an entertainer. But the flesh of a child who would grow up to become semi-skilled peasant. And through that vulnerable, humble life – this god sets off an explosive chain reaction ignited and fuelled by radical, self-giving, love. Not sentimental, sloppy love – but practical, political, world-changing, death-resistant love. The Gospel that unfolds from the Christmas story speaks of a god whose power is expressed through radical listening, subversive self-giving – and costly, sacrificial love for the other. That is the life and the love and the power to which the Christmas narratives expose us, and in which they invite us to find our place.