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As Christians in America, it can be easy to get swept up in the political battles of Red vs. Blue. Republicans vs. Democrats. Donkeys vs. Elephants. And while I am the last person to defend any sort of mushy middle-ground third-way approach to politics (the two parties aren’t even close to morally equivalent), that doesn’t change the deeper reality that our approach to politics as Christians isn’t (or shouldn’t be) built on a party but on a person.
It’s the Red and Green of Christmastime that point us to greater realities beyond the Red vs. Blue of our local politics. The “Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) does matter more than the Donkey and the Elephant.
And that person, the One who demands far greater loyalty than any party — and offers a far greater reward than any electoral victory — is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The very same Jesus Christ who, as the Apostles Creed tells us, is “our Lord” and “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; Born of the Virgin Mary.”
Christians love to remind each other that Christmas isn’t about the presents under the tree. Rightly so. Christmas is about Christ. And because it is about Christ, it is about politics.
That’s right, Christmas is one of the most political events in human history. Again, not in an American presidential election sense, but in the amazing, all-encompassing politics that is about ordering our lives towards the common good, the truth, justice, and a proper exercise of authority sense.
Think about what Christmas means. The rightful King of all has come to earth. His presence is a terror to those who rebel against His rule. Just think of King Herod and how threatened he was by the birth of Christ. He saw this young, newborn baby as a serious challenge to his political power — which is why he so horrifically ordered the slaughter of all male children under two years old in Bethlehem, commonly known as the “Massacre of the Innocents” (Matthew 2:16-18).
Christmas is the bright inbreaking light of eternal hope for fallen man, bound in the shackles of sin. This is why we sing songs like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” which exhort us to “Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray.”
Christmas means forgiveness and freedom for those who don’t deserve it, delivered to earth in the form of a child.
But don’t take my word for it — or the merry gentlemen. Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.–Isaiah 9:6-7, NIV
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Look at that language:
“…the government will be on his shoulders.”
“He will be called…Prince of peace.”
“…of the greatness of his government…there will be no end.”
Government. Prince. Eternal reign. Yes, the birth of Jesus was a profoundly political event. Christmas isn’t just about presents; it is, in a profound way, about politics.
Let me unpack a bit more about what exactly that means for us today in two points.
First, politics is ultimately a question of who is in charge. Who rules? There is a saying that goes, “The sovereign is the one who decides the exceptions.” What does Christmas have to say about who is the sovereign? It says that this child, born in a manger, in the humblest estate imaginable, is the Sovereign. The same Jesus whose parents couldn’t get a room at the inn is the one who sits in eternal, final judgment over all mankind.
Philippians 2:9-11 reminds us (in no uncertain terms) that this same baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day rule over all because of His life, death, and resurrection:
“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Christmas reminds us that Christ is the Sovereign. He is the true and final ruler of all earthly powers — of presidents, kings, and chairmen alike. All worldly authorities derive their authority from the Prince of Peace…Therefore, it is good and right for us, as subjects of these rulers, to call upon them to submit to Him now — and to rule in accordance with God’s good and just moral commands.
Some call this “Christian nationalism.” Maybe a better term for it is “Christmas nationalism.”
Second, Christmas reminds us that earthly politics can never provide the solution we most deeply need. What did the angels say when they announced the birth of Christ? In Luke 2:10-12, we read that the angels told the shepherds to
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
What is this good news of great joy? What has this Savior come to save the people from? Not, first and foremost, from Roman occupation. Not from earthly structures of oppression. No — from their sins. Again, Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away” what? The “sins of the world.” That is, the sins of all who repent and believe in Him as Lord and Savior. As the true King. As the Sovereign.
Charlie Brown, in exasperation, once cried out “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Like Linus, I am here to say, “This is what Christmas is all about — the once and future and forever King.” And that King is King Jesus.
It is to Him that we owe all political allegiance, both on December 25 and the second Tuesday of every November, from now until He returns or calls us home. So, Merry Christmas, and hallelujah!
Follow William on Twitter! @William_E_Wolfe
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.
5 months ago