Merry Christmas, from a Public Policy Point of View

by Heidi Unruh

What does Christmas have to do with public policy?

Dr. Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement, urges us to make the connection: "We would do well to recall, not just the spiritual, but also the political context of this event. Putting Christ back in Christmas means putting the "King of the Jews"—a political title if ever there was one—back in the story."

Commenting on "the difficult geopolitical context of his birth," Dr. Seiple notes, "the Messiah came into this world a persecuted refugee." This calls us to be mindful of the millions of refugees created by the difficulties in our contemporary geopolitical context. (For more, see "Christmas Politics.") (

Another reflection on the political implications of Christmas comes from Dr. Dennis Hoover. "What Herod understood and feared when he ordered all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem murdered was the inherent political relevance and power of faith. This Advent, let us remember to pray for and stand in solidarity with the persecuted, and reflect on whether we are prepared to submit to Christ's kingdom even when it is dangerous to do so." (For more, see "A Reflection on Advent Politics and Persecution." (

Every year the youngest reader in my family reads the Luke 2 narrative on Christmas morning. Our minds' eye naturally linger on the characters—homeless parents, astounded shepherds, glorious angels, and a venerated, vulnerable infant at the center of it all. If we pull back to a wider camera angle, we see this familiar scene against its broader political backdrop: violent rivalries for power, economic oppression, cultural domination, a brutal legal code and rigid social castes. Without a focus that includes these political realities, our response to the story of Christ's birth can lapse into the sentimental. Similarly, our response to the resurrected Christ is truncated if we lack an awareness of how the personal and the political are intertwined.

And yet … it is my hope that at some point in the holiday season, you forget everything I've just written—forget anything that anyone has written about Christmas—and enjoy a moment of sheer wonder and joy, just between you and your Lord, with no political or social strings attached. Just for a moment.

Peace on earth, and good will to all.

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