I am always intrigued by the holiday season we are entering. It’s become so full of materialism, gifts, parties, gatherings, and a hunt to be ready for a day of celebration. I actually love the season and enjoy our family get togethers. Yet in its sensationalism, I wonder if we’re missing some significant perspectives that really could enrich us.
When we reflect on the actual Christmas story, it’s a rather humble and unassuming event. It occurred in a small town where individuals gathered to be counted for tax purposes. People had to pick up their families and walk for days to get there for the process of being taxed. I can’t imagine they would be too happy with that.
A 9-month pregnant teenager named Mary and Joseph were seeking some kind of refuge and there was none. There was only a stable with all the animals along with those staying at the inn with them. There was a birth where the nursery was a stable and the bed was a manger where animals were fed. I don’t think it was exactly the nursery they were looking for. It epitomized the ultimate in what poor and humble people do.
Today this humble event is celebrated in 161 countries, which is the majority of the world. The traditions may be different, but the celebrations are reflective of this simple moment in time. Rather than the retail marketing glitz with its lights, its sales, and all the fanfare, the original event was a serene scene with little more than a few shepherds visiting. Yet it has the power of having a world-wide impact.
As we consider so many in our society that struggle for power we understand that often the definition of power comes from the ability to control others. We see it as wealth, violence, political influence, manipulative, or polarizing actions. Or we can see power as pure might and strength, or even persuasion. We take pride in the public nature of power and influence, and believe it’s the way to achievement and significance.
Yet, as we think of the Christmas story, its true power lies in the humility of a simple gift representing salvation, peace on earth, love, grace, and hope. Those terms are not usually associated with power, but if we ask ourselves, “what other moment in time is now shared in the majority of the world?,” we see a whole new way to think about power and influence.
As we think of the level of human need we’re facing in our world where leaders, countries, and power brokers abuse others, perhaps in the Christmas story there are some rather significant values we need to reflect on and enact. Imagine if we could agree on peace as a goal and be willing to work through the conflicts with dignity, forgiveness, integrity, and truth, to bring healing and hope?
I know it sounds very idealistic, but as I reflect on our work on behalf of those who have been trauma-impacted, I continually realize the power of humility. As humble people reach out with the right values to those in need, they give the gift of a new sense of personal power, strength, and capacity. I’m always humbled when I hear trauma stories because of what people have endured.
Simple humility is a great start to help empower individuals with significant needs. I reflect on Christmas as a time where we consider the gift that gives life to us all out of the humility of a stable, a manger, and the gift of this child. Perhaps this kind of power is really what we are most needing in a world full of so much strife.