Jesus is God’s rebellion against humanity. That statement is as offensive as the real Christmas was before the privileged elites of the world turned it into a lawn decoration and cute children’s pageant.
How can God be a rebel? God’s in charge (like we’re in charge). Our God is a God of order (who endorses the way things are currently ordered). Rebels are evil by definition (because we’ve never had to rebel to get our needs met). Wouldn’t our world fall apart if God rebelled against his duty to control it (and allow us to stay in control)?
God’s rebellion is his sovereignty. The degree to which God perfectly conforms to the exhaustive explanations of his theological handlers is the degree to which he is their god-puppet. God is only something other than a projection of the people in charge whose function is to reify their social order to the degree that God rebels against their expectations. Jesus is that rebellion, despite every effort to domesticate and institutionalize his rebellion and make him the chaplain of empire.
For many Christians, Christmas is functionally an Arian holiday. Arianism is the third century heresy that insists that Jesus wasn’t really God when he was born because God can’t be a vulnerable brown baby. Arius believed that Jesus became God through his life of obedience and ultimate sacrifice, which is basically what many Christians today believe. Jesus is God because the powerful institution that came into being as a result of his death and resurrection says that he is God. His divinity is retroactively applied to his birth (which of course has to be sanitized through Mary’s immaculate conception).
It’s easy to avoid Arianism as long as we keep our discussion abstract and academic. As long as we stick to the epistles and avoid the gospels (which is mostly what Protestant theology does), Christ can remain a nice, abstract equal to the Father. But in our Christmas pageants, nobody would confuse the six-month old who gets to be Jesus with the white bearded man in the sky who’s actually God. Because God doesn’t wear diapers.
If Jesus’ messy incarnational beginning represents something about God’s nature and isn’t merely an incidental narrative detail, then maybe God’s relationship to the universe is more complicated than the grounding stasis the Platonists understood to be perfection. Maybe God’s creative relationship with the universe he continues to create is more subversive than static. Maybe God chooses to infiltrate rather than to preside. Maybe God’s power looks more like a love that perseveres than a fist that controls.
Jesus the baby in the manger controls nothing, is entirely dependent on his parents for survival, and yet has the power to bring shepherds and wise men to their knees in worship. What if God wants us to kneel before him not like we would begrudgingly kneel before an emperor who is holding a sword over us but like we would kneel before a baby who is so precious that he turns heaven and earth into a hallelujah chorus? And what if God comes as a manger baby so that we will see him in every brown baby on the other side of every border we draw between what matters and what doesn’t?
Merry Christmas! Join the rebellion.