Magazine article Tikkun

Christmas as Archetype

Magazine article Tikkun

Christmas as Archetype

Article excerpt

Let's not talk about Jesus at all. Let's talk about ourselves. Who are we? What do we entail? Who do we carry around inside of us? How do we connect to the Divine, to Yahweh, to the Source of all things, to the poor and neglected? Yes, let's talk about Christmas.

Christmas has become an archetype. That is its power. It means many things to many people, and some of these things are just plain offensive. Among the offensive things would be the glut of materialism and consumerism that characterizes the season in a consumer-dominated culture, or the sentimentalism that wallows in nostalgia.

But what are the deepest meanings of this archetype called Christmas?

Christmas is non-triumphal. That is to say, it is not about the victory of any empire, god, tribe, or human enterprise. It is not history written by the conquerors. Quite the opposite: It is "history," or at least a story, about the non-conquerors, the unsuccessful, the non-empire-builders. Christmas is a story about a couple, pregnant and poor with no home or hotel to take them in for their child's arrival. A story not so far fetched given today's world of poverty and exclusion, not just in the "third world," but even-as we saw in New Orleans in September-in the hidden corners and neighborhoods of our own cities.

Christmas is a story about the poor triumphing over life's tough challenges. Like bringing a child into the world. Bringing a child into a corner of the world that is not hospitable to the event, because the parents don't have the means.

Christmas is a story about bringing a child into the world in the midst of the four-legged creatures, in the hay, in the manger where animals feed. It is about laying a child in a manger, not in a pristine bassinet; in a manger, not in a sterilized hospital ward. Christmas is a story about survival.

But it is more than that. The archetype of Christmas also speaks to just what a child is. Who is a human child? Not only the son of a king, the son of a president, the daughter of a rock star-not only the identity of a well-known or well placed child, but the "every child," including the poorest of children born to the poorest of parents in the poorest of circumstances-in a stable, a barn, a ghetto, or a peasant village. What about that child? What is his or her worth? …

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