There are dominant myths and stories that provide the boundaries in which we perceive the world. As much as we might we think we are mavericks with our own personal, individual perceptions (Which, again, is simply a story we believe about our believing), we all are strongly influenced, educated, and discipled into perceiving things a certain way. We are catechized in the most innocuous and simple of ways, for instance, noticing the faint reactions of others we admire to what someone says or does, media and advertising, to the overt educational industrial/complex, all subsumed within a market/commodity/exchange matrix of extremely powerful persuasion.
And so it was in the “fullness of time” too when God became a person. Jesus was born into a world where there were dominant myths and stories—narratives that provided the framework and boundaries in which one could navigate. The dominant story in his part of the world was the story told by Rome. They controlled the economic, educational, civic, political, legal, scientific (as it were), and cultural intersections—the very milieu, ethos, water in which that world swam. How? By military might but also through a narrative that legitimized the use of that military. Roman emperors were gods who maintained the Pax Romana-the peace of Rome. This was the “peace” the world gives.
Christ’s coming, Christmas if you will, was the deconstruction of the Roman Empire’s narrative and its “peace.” Moreover, it was/is the deconstruction of the world. That deconstruction is revealed in Mary’s Magnificat:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his
descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”– Luke 1:46-55
These are the words feared (If they have ears to hear) by every empire, every dictator, every person or entity who operates by the world’s “peace” or power. The principalities and powers shuddered at these words. Here we are told that the proud are scattered, rulers are brought down, the humble are lifted, the hungry are filled, and the rich sent away empty. Notice, too, they are the words of…a woman.
Here is the great subversion and inversion. Here the world is moved off its axis and spun in a new way. Christmas, the birth of Christ, isn’t a fork in the road of history; it is a lifting of the road off the ground that is then moved under it. The ground and road then disappear as the facade they were—Christ is all in all. It’s not a new path or road; it is a revealing of a new world—one there all along, only hidden by other myths and our propensity to believe them.
There is no “war” on Christmas (Sorry, FoxNews). How silly. Rather, Christmas was (Is!) the declaration of war upon the principalities and powers who presumed too much, who lifted up empires, the rich, the powerful—to be pseudo, counter, kingdoms of God. Not only was it a deconstruction of the Roman myth, it was a deconstruction of every empire and counter-myth, including the American one (Sorry FoxNews, sorry Trump).
This war, this deconstruction, is a peaceful one though. It is however, no less de-con-structive or powerful. It comes with good tidings, good news, great joy and peace. A peace the world cannot give. It tells a different story—it constructs a world that cannot be deconstructed or moved.
My prayer for all of us this Christmas, is that we might believe this story and inhabit it—that we might rest in it and enjoy the one it speaks of forever.
Merry Christmas to all and a poem for this wintry season:
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though; he will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer, to stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake, to ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep, of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.