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Reimagining CHRISTMAS, according to Matthew

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We have a picture of Christmas as a “Fun Festival”, but it is a serious business affair. In fact, it is a moment of internal struggle when retail stores in the USA take in 40 per cent of their earnings of the year! This is their profit season and they fight us for every dollar they can squeeze out of our pockets.{{more}}

The enticement of “Nothing Down”, “Huge Discount” etc are deadly weapons and missiles that Christmas launches from corporate classes into middle and lower class communities, so that we spend money on things that do not increase our real wealth or productive base. When we buy a larger fridge and make popsicles, does the “net” cash pay back for the fridge, the added VINLEC bill and then set something aside to invest in a new venture? The classes in society that dominate the season push bright lights into our faces, dangle attractive “consumer” goods within hands reach and sing friendly fantasies through our minds, so that e.g. when our government passes out $5 million to pay “road gangs” to give the landscape a facelift, $4 million goes straight back to the merchants and the lotto and bills. $1 million has to share up between village shops, agriculture, charity and hangovers.

In the class struggle at Christmas, community serenading, Bum drum groups, sorrel beer sharing, village and neighbour kindness, Salvation Army type activism and social justice causes come a poor second. Unethical profits for business win the bloody battle with blazing lights and glory. A new year of wealth over poverty comes to birth as the ruling classes dominate and triumph. Christmas needs a new imagining, a Christ mass activation.

CLASS AND CHRISTMAS 2

That is where the Gospel of Matthew stories of the birth and early childhood of Jesus, the Galilean boy, came in handy. They help us to reimagine Christmas as a class struggle lesson from God. Take the 2 chapters that open the Matthew Gospel account. Matthew presents the ruling classes as extensions or servants of the Roman empire. They exercise domination in that first Christmas, but they also experience defeat. To start with, Matthew quietly stresses that his tribe and nation is not a dotish colony; it has a noble history of its own. He lists the significant men who represent that history and he puts Jesus as the climax of the list. Building on this, a group of intellectuals (wise men from the East) come with a subversive message to Herod — the Palestine police chief of the Roman Emperor. The Roman Emperor, they say, will not last because a new king for the Hebrew people was already announced to the cosmic community. The visit of these bold foreign intellectuals or diplomats was really to give recognition and pay tribute to this new born king! Terror struck the court in Jerusalem and we know the outcomes. The Hebrew priests and intellectuals jumped when Herod barked. There followed “ethnic cleansing”, slaughter of boy children under 2 years of age. Hopeless families waiting in the streets, broken skulls … A political ruling class clearly dominates Matthew’s stories of the 1st Christmas; of course, ideology and theology elevate the story spiritually and, looking into Hebrew scripture, the Matthew brings God’s/ Yahweh’s presence as anticipator, knowing beforehand of these events, as he quotes passages from their scriptures.

But there is another side of the Matthew Christmas story. True, the Roman power and its dependent courtesans dominate the story, eliminate lives and muzzle mouths. But even as it pursues grand building projects like the Jerusalem temple, it does not triumph in its project to kill the people’s king, the Christ. Look at the underside of the class struggle which prevails.

A group of intellectuals (wise men) recognizes Jesus and rebuffs the Emperor. They were subversive and true in Bethlehem, somebody found a space for the migrant homeless Galilean villagers, an angel leaked the message about Herod’s genocidal plans to the target family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. They fled as refugees and there in Egypt/Africa, they found a welcome, or at least relief among the Hebrew community in that large Diaspora. Underground and subversive classes and sections of the community may not dominate, but they can defeat the dominant classes in strategic ways, at strategic times, during strategic projects and battles, until the grand triumph. Let us make Christmas in that image.

CLASS AND CHRISTMAS 3

Is Matthew speaking to us in our community about our Christmas frolics? Without question, in fact the entire Matthew and Luke narrative of the birth and early childhood of Jesus is a cause for and paradigm of salvation as a festival. Matthew points to the fact that the festival is part of a class struggle project and that the underclasses need to come together around that liberation history project. Frolic is not the main event. Accumulating new items is an individual/household project which feeds ruling clan profit. Our broad underclass coalition is not a movement to hand out seasonal charity, but to mobilise our hard and soft resources for a long haul liberation. And Christmas is for loving our neighbours to the max.

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