The County Democratic Party group received a “soft” threat for the Christmas parade. The people claimed they and their friends were going to pelt the float with rotten vegetables. The plea was, “We need to keep politics out of Christmas.” My head almost spun around. This from people who get mad if someone says, “Happy Holidays” to them? But it is possible to keep politics out of Christmas. Here are five ways pastors can avoid anything political this Christmas.
Avoid The Politics of The Magi
The magi (or wisemen) were foreign astrologers. They saw the star of the King of the Jews in the East and set out to find him. The magi, we are told, are likely from Persia a place outside of the Roman Empire. They arrive in Jerusalem uninvited and begin disrupting the day to day business of Jerusalem. When Herod hears of their inquiries, he uses their knowledge to nail down how old the young King must be. The magi unwittingly begin the tragedy that comes when power is threatened. Certain members of the congregation will squirm at this idea while others may see the point.
Stay Away From Shepherds
Shepherds in their fields hear about the new-born king and go to Bethlehem to see the wonder. They are the country people of the Judean wilderness. Their sheep are their livelihood. The shepherds are like cowboys who care for the sheep of the owners. They work night-shift to protect the flocks. They are the low-wage earning working poor. Jesus will one day pronounce blessings on them and woes to their employers. This fact is sure to kill the Christmas offering.
Politics Motivates Every Census
Luke’s device of the census ordered by Augustus gets Joseph and Mary from Nazareth of Bethlehem because Joseph is of the House of King David. The census, or the enrollment, is about taxation. How many households belong to which province? How will tax monies from these households be used? King David took a census of the people. Most scholars presume that census was for how many men-at-arms he could raise. God responds with a plague that lowers the numbers. A census is also about how to control populations. Will Caesar need to raise more legions for any province. While this will not immediately provoke any controversy among the congregation, it is best if pastors avoid discussing it at all.
Do Not Mention The Manger
I know someone is asking, how do we do that? I will not answer that question. That is up to the creativity of the individual clergy person. I want to say why. Displaced people, no matter how much they had at home, live in poverty in the new place. According to legend St. Francis invented the creche – the manger scene – to demonstrate that Jesus was born into poverty. Re-purposing an animal feeding trough to be a bed shows the Holy Family were resourceful people. But there was no place for them due to their poverty. No one was willing to make space in the Inn for the pregnant girl. Often there is no hospitality for the poor even among their own family. This can make people uncomfortable because there are family issues bound to rise during holiday gatherings. If your congregation took presents or food to the homes of some people, the manger could remind them of the circumstances they recently saw. The warm and fuzzy feeling of doing good for the holiday may dissipate quickly.
Avoid The Slaughter of The Innocents
Some pastors will use the slaughter of the boys of Bethlehem for other purposes, it is best to avoid it during this season. Holy Innocents are remembered on December 27th. The Holy Family fleeing to Egypt is also a part of this And yes, I know I am sneaking two issues into this one paragraph. All refugees are in their plight because of the threat of violence. Even “economic refugees” face the violence that grows out of starvation. Another issue is the 689 mass shootings in the United States. How are the terrorists who do these actions different from King Herod and his soldiers? The magi decided against reporting back to Herod as a means of avoiding the violence that took place anyway. It is hard to say what else they could have done. But offering a warning to the people looks like a good idea to me.
Avoiding the Politics of Christmas
Pastors can avoid the politics of Christmas in these five ways. The only problem is what is left to talk about? Unmarried pregnant teenagers?