The Christmas Story Teaches Us About the True Nature of Power

Flight_into_Egypt_-_Capella_dei_Scrovegni_-_Padua_2016 (1)

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondoe (1304-1306, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua) via Wikipedia

Michael Gerson nails it again.  Here is a taste of his recent column at The Washington Post:

Whatever you think about the historicity of the biblical accounts, they provide a powerful story about the true nature of power.

The whole narrative is framed by governmental attempts to assert and maintain control. The site of the birth is determined by a government census. The wise men must frustrate Herod’s attempt to locate a competing king. The slaughter of the innocent is state-sponsored mass murder. The holy family must flee to Egypt as refugees. The Roman Empire and its client ruler are attempting to snuff out potential sedition in its cradle. And that intention is fulfilled some three decades later — to all outward appearances — in a public trial and crucifixion.

“From beginning to end,” says Christian author Philip Yancey, “the conflict between Rome and Jesus appeared to be entirely one-sided. The execution of Jesus would put an apparent end to any threat, or so it was assumed at the time. Tyranny would win again. It occurred to no one that his stubborn followers might just outlast the Roman empire.”

But that is what happened. And the Christmas narrative indicates why. Whatever else this story may be, it is an inversion of our view of power — as though we had lived our whole lives upside down and were finally set aright. In God’s perspective on events, the culmination of history takes place among common people. Shepherds are the audience for angels. The stable is more influential than the royal court. Refugees are more important than rulers. The hopes of humankind are met, against all expectation, in a helpless infant. Power is found in the renunciation of power; strength is perfected in weakness.

It is not always obvious how this great inversion applies in our lives or our politics. But it forbids us from believing that cruelty can bring authority, or that peace can be achieved through murder, or that justice can arrive through lawlessness. It calls us to humility and decency over arrogance and ruthlessness. And it provides the Christmas hope that love will have the final word.

Read the entire piece here.