Remember the plot? It involved a couple of dispossessed paupers in enemy-occupied territory at the mercy of an interfering bureaucracy imposing citizen-checks, set against a backcloth of grinding rural poverty, social anxiety and the stigma of illegitimacy. Sounds like rather a grim East European movie, doesn’t it? Kosovo, perhaps.
Christmas helps me remember that God is always partial to the poor. He chooses Egypt’s slaves and makes them into “a chosen people. Jesus chooses fishermen for followers and pronounces blessings on the destitute, the impoverished and the down and outers. He offends “substantial people” with his readiness to party with drop-outs.
We struggle against a precisely opposite dynamic. Whatever we proclaim to the contrary, our entire social network is geared to an upwardly mobile drive mechanism that celebrates wealth, class and education. Bigger is always better. Some high-profile Christian talkers promote it as an enviable lifestyle that indicates the blessing of God.
Christmas should remind us that that just ain’t so.
But despite our agreement with my opening statement up there, for us, Christmas becomes a spiralling orgy of over-consumption. We are bloated on our own greed. Even the official “churches” promote this weird snowy Victorian theme-park concept, fabricated out of a few of Charles Dickens’ cheesier fantasies and the soft-sell of some 1930s Disneyad-men.
The Bible is quite tough on us, you remember, and advises us not to give special care or attention to those who are well dressed or wealthy.
The trouble is, if God is on a journey of downward mobility and we are caught in the throes of upward mobility, aren’t we in danger of missing each other completely?
Especially at Christmas.