It was a Christmas dinner conversation about ESPN and Deadspin; a contention was made about how Deadspin spoke truth to the power structures in athletics. There was a pause and then the words floated over the table. “Wasn’t that what Jesus did?” And then, “Isn’t that what Jesus does now?”
Jesus, in the simplicity of his human birth, speaks truth to power. The definitive focus is on love in its every aspect. The drama of birth itself embraces the reality of suffering that life demands. The story is more than Jesus’ personal narrative; it speaks to the reality of the origin of each human life, and the power of love and persons. The Christmas story is an invitation to speak the truth of love, to share in the experience of being truly human.
Jesus’ story and the stories He wound into parables are reminders of the power of the human spirit in the face of life’s challenges and suffering. The truth that life is difficult and that grief and sorrow are part of human experience are implicit in the nativity story. It is ours to grasp that, to remember, and to live that truth in facing power. Allowing the Christmas story to be distorted or distilled to any less deprives it of the chance to speak truth to power.
In every way, Jesus is the “common sense teacher” that recognized the power structures that characterize human life. The truth he spoke was about how to live attitudinally and behaviorally within society. The challenge to norms comes in subtle responses wrapped in parables: the Good Samaritan who chose to be different; the widow whose persistence won the day; the leper who chose to return to say “thanks”. There is a courage in each pericope, a conviction born of love. Allowing love to be the motivating factor for choices and decisions echoes the Nativity story itself.
And then there are the Beatitudes….Matthew, chapter 5:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
It was all speaking truth to power, a reminder that there is more to who we are than what happens to us. It matters what we do and how we do it, what motivates us and what we choose to believe, how we interact with others and how we respond to the circumstances beyond our control. That all speaks truth to power.