The Christmas story is all about politics. Look:
‘Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.’
Let’s translate that a little for the benefit of those of us who don’t live in the 1st century Roman empire:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the lifetime term of office of Herod, president and chief justice, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born the legitimate ruler of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to submit to his goverment.” When president Herod heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the government ministers, chief judges, and lawyers, he inquired of them where the real president was to be born.
Or, from the other end of the political scene, Mary the pregnant teenager proclaims Christmas is about this: “God has sacked the proud and brought down the powerful from their places in the government and the lawcourts, and has exalted the humble; he has given food and more to the starving, and he has sent the rich packing.”
Forgive the loss of poetry but the Good News of Christmas, according to the angel Gabriel, is the coming of a government, a ruler, a judge, who will do it Right. Jesus, rightful ruler of the world. Laws will be just, courts will not cost the earth, and the rich will not shaft the poor.
And so the church that follows Jesus attempts to demonstrate a new society, in which the starving are indeed fed, the poor protected and the weak defended in court.
It is apparent that Jesus’ government doesn’t favour the usual tools of government — armies, lawyers, yearly reams of new legislation, police enforcement. It is more a person-by-person “if you’re following Jesus, then do what he would do” method. Which may sound small and slow but like the mustard seed turns into something surprisingly big. Bigger than the Roman empire. And a lot lot nicer.
It’s a government you could believe in.