My first blog post ever, and on Christmas Day. At first I thought this to be incongruous, but then I realized it makes perfect sense: the message of Christmas and the mission of Nasty Woman Press are in perfect harmony. I will apologize in advance if this ends up sounding a little like a sermon: three services in 24 hours will do that to a person! All issues of faith or belief aside, let us consider the Christmas narrative. First, there is Mary, not at all “meek and mild” as the patriarchs of the church would like us to envision her (and I think we know why they preferred that image, don’t you??). Obedience to God is not about meekness or mildness; quite the contrary. Mary had to be a strong, self-assured young woman: who else would risk ostracism and possible death by stoning to bear a child out of wedlock in first century Judea? I like to think of Mary as one of the earliest “nasty women” – she defied societal norms and expectations in choosing to obey the voice of God. Meek and mild? I think not!
Second, following the narrative, there is the whole mystery of the Incarnation. Just think about it: the laws of nature are overthrown in “the virgin birth” and “God made man.” That which was uncreated becomes created in the flesh. That which is essence without beginning or end – the self-existent, if you will – comes into existence. The Word, the Logos of the universe, becomes mortal flesh. The creator of the world comes into the world not as a king in power and majesty but as a vulnerable, humble infant living in a community of oppressed people whose country has been occupied and annexed by a superpower. The narrative makes it quite clear that the structure of that society is about to be overthrown as well. So, the message of Christmas is also about resistance, revolution, and subversion: God incarnate arrives to expose the world’s lies and reveal heaven’s truth.
And we who find ourselves called to follow that infant Jesus embark upon a dangerous path of defiance and resistance: we are called to see in the face of every immigrant, every Dreamer, every child deprived of CHIP, every senior whose Social Security is threatened, every woman who is denied proper comprehensive health care, every homeless person the very face of Christ. That is what real Christians are called to do. And what of that infant we have left in the manger in Bethlehem? Our story tells us that, because of the madness and insecurity of King Herod, the family were forced to flee their homeland for some time. Herod knew his power was illegitimate, and he feared the rumors of a “greater one” who would come and take his throne. So what did he do? He massacred innocent children of a certain age to ensure that his successor would be eliminated and his tenuous grip on authority would remain secure. It is a cautionary tale that in Christmastide the church observes the slaughter of the Holy Innocents only 3 days after Christmas. Even the Christmas story reminds us that we are wise to fear madmen in charge of governments. Which brings me, finally, to the title of this piece. The poem is by Christina Rossetti and is a lovely, if haunting, carol. But in the midst of our own “bleak midwinter,” I am put in mind of yet another Rossetti poem that embodies the message of hope and love that is also Christmas. This – along with the mission of Nasty Woman Press – helps to fuel my resolve and keep me motivated to resist oppression and fight for justice. And, because it is the season and I am a big Dickens fan – God bless us, every one!!
- Love came down at Christmas,
- Love all lovely, Love Divine,
- Love was born at Christmas,
- Star and Angels gave the sign.
- Worship we the Godhead,
- Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
- Worship we our Jesus,
- But wherewith for sacred sign?
- Love shall be our token,
- Love be yours and love be mine,
- Love to God and all men,
- Love for plea and gift and sign.