Christmas and Equality
Has it ever struck you, as the old joke goes, that Father Christmas is not politically correct because he gives better presents to rich kids. This is, of course, the opposite of the real Christmas story. If you want to understand why our law is based on the idea that all people are equal, then Christmas is a good place to start.
In the real story, God choses a poor carpenter’s family as the home for Jesus—not quite peasants, but not far from it. The mother of Jesus, Mary, quickly realises the political statement God had made by choosing her when she says:
‘He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.’
(The Bible, Luke 1:52-53 NIV)
She is well aware she is a ‘nobody’. She is not rich, she has no power, she lives in an occupied country, she probably had no education, and she was having a baby without being married. The point of the story is that everyone is equally precious to God. God could have chosen as the mother of Jesus a powerful and wealthy queen in a luxurious palace. Instead, God chooses a simple village girl, who is forced to give birth in a stable in a backwater of the Roman Empire.
Just to underline the message, God chooses a group of shepherds as the first witnesses of the event. At the time shepherds were despised. For one thing, they smelt of sheep and, in general, they were also accused of acquiring stuff that was not exactly theirs. True, a group of ‘wise men from the east’ also make an appearance some time later, but the first place they go looking is in the palace. They are amazed when they find ‘The Christ’, Jesus, in a poor, ordinary setting.
Whether or not you are religious, it is a matter of fact that the stories of Jesus have played a massive part in shaping our British (and European) culture and values. The birth of Jesus is not quite as ‘romantic’ as the pictures on our Christmas cards suggest, but much more important – we are all equal in God’s eyes, and that has become the law of our land.
(If you want to know more, see Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, by Larry Siedentop, 2014)
Image: ‘Madonna & Child’ (Mary & Jesus), outside the Church of St. John and St. Martin, Schwabach, Germany.Share this: