This time of year I always think of how much I love the Christmas story. Not the neat and tidy shiny story that often gets told and is depicted on Christmas cards and all kinds of slogans, but the real story that is underneath it.
The story of God coming into the world in such a subversive, unexpected way.
The story that doesn’t make sense and involves ordinary people who step into a complicated story and have to live with all the consequences.
The story that reminds us that those on the the margins and the underside of power always get it first and go where others won’t go.
The story that points to the bigger story of power and control that permeates humanity.
Honestly, I can’t help but always come back to the same thought over and over and over and over again: All roads lead to power.
Worldly power is the force in our systems, groups, and souls that keep us separated.
It keeps us in our “right” positions in the world, either over or under another.
Keeps us clear on who is the “us” and who is the “them.”
Keeps us divided into the deserving and undeserving.
Keeps us comfortable.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how this kind of typical “power” is always resistant to anything uncomfortable. It likes its deep grooves of “this is how it always has been.” It likes its predictability. It likes its separation. It likes its privilege. It likes its adherence to “the law” and the knowns and the rules, both spoken and unspoken, that have keep the wheels of power spinning around.
Because underneath worldly power is fear.
Deep fear of what will happen if we let go of it. Deep fear of losing control, losing our ground, losing our protection. Deep fear of having to engage with things we don’t want to engage with. Deep fear of having to give up what has kept us “safe” and comfortable.
This is why every time there is push against power, the systems get mad. They resist it. They shut it down. They hunker down. They circle their wagons. They strengthen their logical arguments. They remind everyone what we need to be afraid of and why power should be protected.
Honestly, I think the Christmas story–the story of a different kind of power–is getting told 365 days a year and is always unfolding right before our very eyes, within our own hearts, and in the wider world.
Right now, it’s being told through the world’s refugee crisis and power’s response to the uncomfortable.
It’s being told through the LGBQT tensions and power’s response to the uncomfortable.
It’s being told through the black lives matter movement and power’s response to the uncomfortable.
It’s being told through women rising up and pushing through church and organizational leadership barriers and power’s response to the uncomfortable.
It’s being told through the being-heard-more-freely voices of the mentally ill and power’s response to the uncomfortable.
It’s being told through organizations that feed campaigns and control legislation and power’s response to the uncomfortable.
It’s being told through men and women of all ages and shapes and sizes who are leaving church systems and power’s response to the uncomfortable.
It’s being told every time someone calls out the status quo and power’s response to the uncomfortable.
It’s being told over and over and over again–where power wants to protect, hunker down, incite fear. But God’s crazy ways of turning it all upside down and deferring to the margins keeps leaking through, rocking the boat, stirring the pot, breaking down walls, and creating discomfort.
I will forever remember when I was on a big church staff and one of the most powerful elders basically yelled at me, saying, “Kathy, you’re making people uncomfortable when you talk about pain and struggle. They aren’t desperate and they don’t want you to tell them they should be.” That’s a whole other story but it magnifies the tension in such a clear way. “Power” in so many churches and organizations don’t want to be uncomfortable.
It doesn’t want to enter a lowly stable with stinky animals and a bunch of weird characters.
It doesn’t want to be uncomfortable.
And honestly, most days I don’t want to be uncomfortable, either.
But oh, the ways of Jesus are so incredibly uncomfortable. Like so uncomfortable we are going to lose our lives for it.
It’s worth it.
Because any small part we can play in breaking down unhealthy systems of power that rob dignity and try to destroy hope and keep people under is worth it.
Despite the darkness in the world right now (the same kind of darkness that existed 2,000 years ago, too), I am so grateful to know so many people pushing against power.
Who are forcing it to be uncomfortable.
Who are tirelessly working at tipping things in a better direction.
Who refuse to live in fear and are showing up, telling the truth, trusting God, and letting go of the outcome.
Who are leading in contexts where they are making power uncomfortable.
Who are willing to risk losing relationships, jobs, credibility and a whole host of other things that power likes to keep us trapped with in order to cultivate change.
Who are entering the Christmas story–not as some distant tale–but as a living, breathing story that we all play a part in.
Here’s to being really, really uncomfortable.