Liberating Christmas

A note from Will O’Brien, director of the Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia.

Peace On Earth and the Politics of Christmas


Saturday morning, December 11

10:30 am – 12:30 pm EST

Join  the Alternative Seminary on December 11 for a virtual Bible study, “Peace on Earth and The Politics of Christmas” Alternative Seminary coordinator and contributor to RLC Will O’Brien will lead a program reflecting on the “nativity narratives” in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to see how they express core biblical themes of justice and liberation.  For more information, go to the Facebook page.

Since my young adult days, Christmas has always been an emotionally thorny holiday for me. One root of my discomfort are memories of the holidays with my dysfunctional family, which are at best strained and uncomfortable, hardly festive. But another is the obscene consumeristic orgy that utterly subsumes the sacred story – and only gets worse every year.

There are, of course, churches and sacred spaces that seek to express the religious meaning of Christmas. But each year, as I sat in churches and heard the Luke and Matthew texts read amid liturgical pomp and solemnity, I was increasingly unsettled and unsatisfied.

About ten years ago, after much study and reflection in circles and communities committed to authentic gospel discipleship, I came to see that the narratives of the birth of Jesus are among the most egregiously misread and misunderstood parts of the New Testament. In our Alternative Seminary program in Philadelphia, we began to offer a program on “Peace on Earth and the Politics of Christmas,” which seeks to deconstruct the domesticated version of “the Christmas story” and instead explore gospel texts that are downright incendiary political stories – stories that our world needs to hear in all their rawness and power. This program has developed over the years; new insights and challenges emerge whenever our communities gather to wrestle with these stories and what they mean for our world.

In recent years, the urgency of this biblical work has become more urgent: while it has always been there, the militant white American Christian nationalism has intensified its grasp on the faith and the church. We must liberate these stories from their cultural captivity – and tap their liberating power.

One of the unexpected gifts that have come out of the pandemic is that we have been forced to use technologies that in fact allow us to make more connections and reach out to a broader community. The Alternative Seminary has been able to go virtual, allowing more folks around the country (and the world!) to participate.  For the second time, our “Peace on Earth and the Politics of Christmas” program will be available live online via Zoom. For me personally, it is always very exciting and compelling to gather with new people to feel the Spirit stirring among us as we delve into these stories.  I hope many of you can join us!

2 thoughts on “Liberating Christmas

  1. Mícheál McEvoy

    I do not use Facebook and I went to the website, but it looks like it has not been maintained. I would like to participate, but I do not want a Facebook account to do so. Where can I find the link?

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