As I read the account of Jesus’ birth I am struck once again with the remarkable unremarkability of it all. The location, the characters and the surroundings all scream, “We are the 99%.”
There were many spectacular and notable cities in that day—Alexandria, Rome, Xian—Nazareth and Bethlehem were not among them.
There were many families at that time that commanded respect, held authority and wielded influence. None of them are important in the account of Christ’s birth. He was simply one more baby born to an unwed teenage girl from nowhere in particular.
There were important religious and political figures that might have been swept up in the announcement and adoration of the infant king, but it is shepherds—a community existing on the bottom rung of society—who first hear the news.
Everything around the birth narrative of Christ indicates that God took great pains to avoid the 1% when choosing to come into this world. When God voted with his birth, he voted for the uneducated, poor teeming masses living on the edge.
This is a sobering reality when I consider that I am in not only in the top 1%, I’m in the top .85% … at least as measured by the Global Rich List.
Late in the story, perhaps as late as two years after his birth, we see a glimpse of the 1%. Their arrival is a picture of the Kingdom of God in operation on earth. Important, educated and wealthy dignitaries from the East find the Creator of the Universe in the home of a peasant family in nowheresville, Palestine. There they surrender to the Peasant King a portion of their possessions in an act of worship.
Years later, when the Spirit of God fell upon men and women, rich and poor were inspired to pool their resources, share them freely and take only what they needed.
In the story of his birth and in the picture of the early church we see the 1% and the 99% freely sharing what they have, inspired by a Creator who traded “sapphire paved courts for stable floor.”
May the picture of the Nativity, of shepherds and Magi, of the poor and the rich, gathered around a feeding trough inspire us to live more generously, and to call others to come under the generous rule of the Peasant King.