Sunday, 23 December 2007
Christmas in context - violence, grieving and refugees
Jim Barr in his sermon at Canberra Baptist this morning for the fourth Sunday on Advent drew attention to the gaping difference between the nostalgic sentimentality of Christmas in the current consumer and church culture and the stark realities of Matthew's gospel account in chapter 2.
Matthew gives us a story of political realpolitik, genocidal violence and refugees fleeing their homeland. There is in the text a triple layer of reference to grieving - the children massacred by Herod, the quotation of Jeremiah with its grief at the exile in Babylon, referring in further back to Rachel, a mother in the line of the patriarchs in her grieving.
Here is a story that resonates through so much of the experience of the Jewish diaspora for the next twentieth centuries and a story that could be claimed by Palestinian civilians in refugee camps, Gaza and the West Bank today.
The Christian church in its Christendom embrace of empire has frequently aligned itself on the side of practitioners of realpolitik and has ended on the side of Herod rather than the refugees and those who are grieving.
No wonder we in the church, let alone the wider community, collectively avert our eyes and close our hearts to the hard challenging edge of a story that speaks of the coming and presence of God as vulnerability in the midst of violence and grief.