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Saturday, 29 December 2007

The Politics of Christmas according to Luke

For all the attention paid to the birth of Jesus in the focus on Christmas in both the church and the prevailing culture, the stories that we have are limited to only two of the four gospel accounts of Jesus. This is is in stark contrast to the focus in all four gospels on the last week of Jesus life and his execution.

In Luke's account as in Matthew's account, discussed earlier this week, we land up in the midst of the politics of first century Palestine, not some nice spiritually warm "religious" event.

Luke focuses our attention on the political aspirations of the people of Palestine located against the history of their striving for identity and independence - hoping for liberation - read the poetry of the Magnificat and the prophetic Benedictus, all this is soaked in the language of politics, of justice, pulling down princes, lifting up the poor, freedom from fear and guiding our feet into the path of peace.

All the signs and language of this account are a counter imperial challenge to the claim of the ruling Roman powers and the claims to divinity of Caesar.

With Caesar there was not distinction between the 'political' and the 'religious' - Luke was writing to those in the wider Roman empire. To make the claims Luke does was to call into question the political claims of the empire.

Jesus is bringing into the world, Luke advises us, a new form of politics that calls the claims of Caesar into severe question.

Luke's Christmas account read carefully calls into question any easy alignment of those who claim to be followers of Jesus with the pretensions of Empire - then and now.

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