While always an undercurrent of sorts, power is particularly noteworthy in election years. The positioning for political power at the highest levels of government subsequently underscores the existence and exercise of power in business, international relations, and mass media. Academics and pundits offer their insights and wisdom, preachers endeavor to speak truth, and society struggles to find meaning in the midst of survival.
Power is also something we relate in our everyday living to light. In recent months, power outages were fairly commonplace here in the Newtonville neighborhood. Once for more than a day, several times for hours, occasionally for minutes, we found ourselves without electricity and therefore without light. It’s quite easy to take for granted when you flip the switch (or ask Alexa to do it for you) that illumination will result.
Images of light and darkness, day and night, are a regular and common part of scripture, and particularly poignant to the Advent and Christmas seasons. Images of power are also central, though we too often gloss over the prophetic witnesses of Isaiah and Mary in our longing for beautiful simplicity. What we find, however, is that the challenges to worldly powers and the humble plainness Jesus’ birth go hand in hand.
When the author of John’s Gospel tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” (John 1:5 CEB), he’s telling us what real power looks like. When Mary proclaims, “He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed," (Luke 1:52-53 CEB) she’s teaching where real power comes from.
We discover in the Christ-child that real power is political, and economic, and academic. But real power is also gentle, and righteous, and wise. Real power flows forth with holiness, and meaning, and truth. Real power brings forth mercy, and justice, and peace. Real power shatters the darkness of despair and heals God’s people. Real power pulses through creation is the simplicity of a child, lying humbly in a manger, God-with-us, Emmanuel.
Peace for the journey,