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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 14 March 2013

THE UPSIDE DOWN CHRISTMAS TREE

By Jim Jordal

 Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him….He came in the Spirit into the temple. When the parents brought in the child, Jesus….Simeon received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Now…my eyes have seen your salvation…A light for revelation to the nations….Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Simeon’s prophecy concerning Jesus, the Christ, Luke 2:25-35, WEB

If you were to attend an Advent service at First Lutheran Church in Taylors Falls you might be surprised at the presence of a definitely upside down Christmas tree. It hangs in all its decorated glory from the arm of an upright pole that could easily be mistaken for a cross. It hangs by a short chain gripping the lower part of its trunk.

The symbolism that first struck me was that of true Christmas "hung by the neck until dead" by a culture dominated by greed, avarice, injustice and oppression. The "Christmas spirit" that some of knew as children is now bent, twisted and warped into something foreign to the teachings of the Child whose birth we celebrate, commemorate and claim to worship. Whose birth is celebrated by the masses straining to gain entrance into stores that shouldn’t be open on Thanksgiving Day? It’s the advent of the market place, greed, manipulation, falsehood, and the "bottom line" that’s being commemorated—not the birth of the Savior.

And what might be even more striking is the sermon series presented by Rev. Mark Woeltge entitled A Subversive Christmas. These aren’t like any Advent sermons I’ve heard in my four score years of church attendance since they present several aspects of the true Christmas that are subversive of the common culture and most of what it stands for.

Yes, Jesus was a subversive. Unfortunately, some people have trouble with the term "subversive" because they associate it with men in dark coats and fedoras sneaking around planting bombs. They also associate it with violence, suffering and death. Jesus, however, taught non-violence and love as the true duty of people who would subvert worldly systems and practices. He opposed Roman/Jewish temple dominators with truth made more acceptable through humor, kindness, story telling, metaphor and public embarrassment.

The true Christmas Story is one of miracles, sacrifice, suffering, persecution and often the death of those daring to subvert the Romans and Temple authorities who opposed every effort to limit their almost total power. It also is the story of ultimate victory over evil through the Babe whose birthday we commemorate. Simeon’s prophecy (above) reveals that Jesus was born to deliver God’s salvation, not just of individual believers, but of entire peoples and nations. Jesus was the light of revelation for God’s great plan of delivering, healing, freeing, relieving, and restoring the sufferers who are oppressed, blind, imprisoned, poverty stricken, brokenhearted under the yoke of domination. It was the exact opposite of what the Roman/Temple dominators promised the people. And it resulted in the System finally deciding that this subversive Christ had to be eliminated.

Simeon also foretold that Jesus was "set for the rising and falling of many in Israel, and "for a sign that is spoken against." He meant that the teachings of Jesus would bring down empires as well as exalt the helpless and downtrodden in society. It would be "spoken against" or opposed in the highest realms of human authority, if not by word, then by intent and behavior. Many of today’s leaders, even in our religious establishments, exalt the Christmas Story while at the same time venerating the greed and perversions characterizing our acquisitive society.

Simeon concluded with the gripping, danger-laden revelation to Mary that a sword "will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Beginning with the ministry of Jesus and over the last 2,000 years, that prophecy has worked its way out in the affairs of men and empires. Great leaders have risen and fallen, as have kingdoms and empires. Today we still labor under a domination system similar in many ways to the one that killed the Son of God. But the deceit, injustice, greed and other perverse thoughts of the System are even now being revealed and conquered through efforts of those "benevolent subversives" following the full teachings of Christ. Why don’t you join them?