I am not sure which one of us put an election on our letter to Father Christmas but it seems that is the one delivery that is guaranteed this year. So as well as the jingles for High Street stores we’ll find ourselves surrounded by political promises, and as well as Christmas cards dropping through the letter box, we’ll be picking up communication mail from our local candidates.
Some might feel this is a bit of a spoiler on the season, however I think there are good reasons this political stance could provide a more authentic Christmas experience, should we give it some thought.
Politics shapes the Christmas story as we know it. Luke’s gospel tells us Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem precisely because Quirinius, governor of Syria, was commanded by the Roman Emperor Augustus to conduct a census for the purpose of taxes. Before we meet the child Jesus, Matthew’s gospel is keen to establish his credentials as a descendant of King David, and to acknowledge the political exile of Jesus’ ancestors to Babylon. The wise men cause a threat to the political order with the news of a newborn king so that King Herod plans to kill the child. Mary and Joseph flee and live as refugees in neighbouring Egypt. Meanwhile, fuelled by the desire to cling to political power, Herod orders all young children in and around Bethlehem be slain.
The Christmas story is about God entering our world. The baby Jesus finds his life shaped by the political stage around him from before he leaves the womb. The politics of the world with its competing factions, impact his life from his birth until his final breath on the cross.
Politics too shapes all of our lives. It has profound effects on the lives of those who are very similar to us and those who live in very different circumstances. The bible is clear that our concern should never be just for our own standards of living but rather for those who are particularly vulnerable or in need. Perhaps we could see our vote as a Christmas present to our neighbour as well as a desire for ourselves.
So if you want to add that authentic dimension to Christmas this year, make sure you visit your local polling booth. Oh, and also, do take a mince pie to those good people who’ll spend the day volunteering so you can cast your vote.
I wish you all a very blessed and peaceful Christmas and New Year.