A Christmas Welcome: The Outlandish Jesus the Powerful Wanted to Kill

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In the popular imagination, Christmas is all about welcome.

People feel the social pressure to be kinder to folks who annoy them the rest of the year—like Kevin from Logistics, who apparently can’t chew with his mouth shut absent the aid of a Hannibal Lecter mask and a twisty straw.

We welcome people into our homes to eat our food and drink our eggnog—even Aunt Delores who’s pretty sure the government hasn’t been straight with us about either the moon landing or the secret amnesia-causing chemicals lacing the “organic” food in the produce section down at the Kroger.

Christmas in our culture is very much about welcome—or at least about feeling welcoming.

Popular Christianity is no different. A lot of hay is made about hay—and the fact that Jesus had to be born in it because the Bethlehem Motel Six managed to withstand the seasonal arm-twisting about hospitality, and couldn’t manage to leave the light on … in particular for a poor family a long way from home.

But the real story of welcome at Christmas had as much to do (and still does) with the lack of hospitality toward a child—whose advent represents a new reign of peace and justice, and whose life promises to unsettle the world, bringing “down the powerful from their thrones, and [lifting] up the ones who’ve lived in shame; [filling ] the hungry with good things, and [sending] the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52–53).

The folks in power had no interest in welcoming this baby.

Because, you see, the baby who got the authorities worked into such a murderous lather is the same outlandish Jesus whom those same authorities eventually executed as a political revolutionary. The manger and the cross are linked as symbols of God’s cosmic upheaval of the present world and its systems of domination.

And 2,000 years after the birth of this political subversive, anyone who wants to follow Jesus can expect the same welcome from the big wheels who have a stake in keeping the world the way it is—with the rich and powerful enjoying every advantage at the expense of all the despised and forgotten people fighting just to stay afloat.

It may not solve Kevin’s mastication problems or Aunt Delores’s conspiracy fever dreams … but an outlandish Jesus who unsettles the world sounds like someone that the people who have no power have been desperate to welcome.