The Politics of Christmas

I don’t usually highlight my own writing here, but since this is available for free, I thought I’d mention it.

I was commissioned by the excellent political thinktank Theos to write on ‘The Politics of Christmas’. The brief noted that we tend to assume that Christmas should be apolitical in our contemporary celebrations, but that the original gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus were perhaps less than apolitical, and that this invited some exploration. (If you know your recent NT scholarship and you’re thinking ‘shooting fish in small bucket; never mind barrel’ – well, yes, guess why I took the commission…)

The report was released today; it explores the reasons Christmas became depoliticised in the Victorian period, and (at least some of) the various political commitments and implications of the gospel narratives. It owes more than a little to my colleague Tom Wright’s ‘anti-imperial’ reading of the NT, but I think that most of the positions taken are accepted by all strands of contemporary scholarship.

As a result of press releases on the launch, I got to give a live interview with Kingdom FM. Every hairdresser and taxi driver in Fife is now convinced of my position…

1 Comment

  1. PatrickM
    Dec 7, 2011

    Thanks for this Steve, a very helpful resource.

    You say “The coming of Jesus will bring salvation for the people, but this salvation cannot be limited to a religious experience; rather it will include political transformation, the freeing of the land from its oppressors.”

    But is it fair to say that Jesus’ coming did not fulfil Zechariah and Mary’s political expectations? Something surprising happened that re-shaped the political hopes and even the identity of Israel – and this is tied up with the relationship of the people of God with the land.

    I ask because I was preaching on Zechariah’s song last weekend and made the point that many of his political expectations were fulfilled in ways he would not have expected. Ways that, as you say, involved the rejection of military violence to achieve peace. So while not denying the political implications of Christmas, would you agree that the narratives themselves resist, or redefine, popular political readings of the coming of the Messiah?

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