Those who would be the first to defend Christmas are usually the last to embrace the fullness of its meaning, says the religious think-tank Ekklesia.
Responding to routine annual accusations that Christmas is being "watered down" or marginalised for reasons of "political correctness", Ekklesia's co-director Jonathan Bartley, writing in the Church Times, commented: "Christmas is becoming increasingly political. Its harder messages about taxation, poverty, child-killing, unmarried parents, asylum-seekers, and oppressive rulers, not to mention regime change, have often been avoided under the old alliance of Christianity and culture. But Christians on the margins, rather than in the centre, of society, have less need to avoid the more uncomfortable aspects of the Christmas story."
He continued: "This year, in a powerful move, the Amos Trust produced a subversive nativity crib-scene, made in Bethlehem by Palestinian Christians, containing Israel’s separation wall. The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance has put together an Advent calendar of daily readings, pictures, and meditations written by those living with AIDS. Even the BBC will screen a modern-day Liverpool Nativity designed to tell “the intimate, personal story of a pregnant young girl set against a backdrop of political tension and unrest.”
Writing on The Guardian's Comment-is-Free site, Bartley's directorial colleague Simon Barrow added: "The Christian message suggests that if we are going to disbelieve all the nonsense that wants to divide us from one another, the kind of myths that make our lives controllable by 'the powers that be', we need to be clear that we are the products neither of blind fate nor of divine manipulation. Rather, we are called into being and given terrifying freedom by a God who is nothing like the "gods" constructed by human beings. Instead, this God [is seen in] the pattern of living declared by a child born in obscure circumstances at the edge of empire. One who would go on to commend all kinds of crazy ideas (like forgiveness, open hospitality, and enemy-loving) which make no sense to a world drenched in money and power."