I landed this humble Charlie Brown Christmas tree a few years ago at a church staff white elephant gift exchange. My kids have claimed it since and put it in their room each December. The classic holiday story surrounding the festive fichus hinges on Lucy sending Charlie Brown on a mission to “get the biggest aluminum tree you can find…maybe painted pink." To her chagrin, Chuck and Linus return with the saddest and droopiest of evergreens- the one nobody wanted- with barely enough strength to bear the weight of a single red ball. Yet the frail tree becomes the centerpiece of their pageant and Linus’ proclamation of the gospel narrative.
If we are not careful, the story of Christmas and much of the gospel can easily become yet another platform for privilege and power, the glitzy and the glam. The past and present are littered with the co-option of the Christian faith to build empires, exploit the land, oppress peoples, hoard riches, and justify wars. Then we hear again Mary’s Magnificat, a subversive resistance to all of this, "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 2:51-52). Advent dares us again to have the eyes and ears of both Charlie Brown and Mother Mary, to shift our focus to the humble, the people and places oft shoved to the side and dismissed as less, those who take center stage in God's pageantry. After all, among the humble is where God came down and dwelled as one of us.