Stop right there. The Emperor is speaking, after all, and he’s in charge. We know that because we keep finding statues of him. There’s a couple in the British Museum, and they’re not just monuments, they’re propaganda. They’re telling a story about Rome and it’s leader. He’s a warrior, a nobleman, he’s in charge, he’s keeping the empire standing. That was the message of every statue, every coin, mass communication before there was mass comunication. And, when the Emperor became a divine figure, a ‘son of a god’, all these propaganda tools became images of god.
So think about Christmas and the nativity scene, the baby in the manger. Here’s another picture of God: God Incarnate, God With Us, Emmanuel. Those are the big theological ideas, sure, but what are they telling us? If God’s in the manger, what image does that leave us with?
Is it an image of relationship? God becoming human to break down the barriers that separate us from the divine?
Is it an image of humility? Christ isn’t born in a palace, after all, and the only people who recognise him are peasants and outsiders, right?
Is it an image of vulnerability? This is a God who’s willing to learn to talk and learn to walk, a God who sustains the universe but who also has to learn basic bodily functions. This is a God who bleeds.
It’s all these things and more. And all of these speak of God’s love and grace for us.
And yet this also reminds us of something profound and glorious. God became a human being, yes, but we’re made in the image of God, each one of us: every king and Emperor, every street sweeper and refugee, each one an image of God, each one important, each one loved. Over the course of nine months, angels start appearing to a teenage girl, a carpenter, some shepherds. Why? Because thrt’re important. They’re recipients of God’s grace. And they’re loved. Bruce Cockburn put it well:
“There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you’ve got ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It’s a Christmas gift you don’t have to buy
There’s a future shining in a baby’s eyes.”