I commend to you Ross Douthat’s latest column, Ideas From a Manger . The classic manger scene is “an entire worldview in a compact narrative,” he writes.
Its about the vertical link between God and man the angels, the star, the creator stooping to enter his creation. But its also about the horizontal relationships of society, because it locates transcendence in the ordinary, the commonplace, the low.
Its easy in our own democratic era to forget how revolutionary the latter idea was. But the biblical narrative, the great critic Erich Auerbach wrote, depicted something which neither the poets nor the historians of antiquity ever set out to portray: the birth of a spiritual movement in the depths of the common people, from within the everyday occurrences of contemporary life.
He then goes on to explore the alternatives, including “the spiritual world picture, which keeps the theological outlines suggested by the manger scene the divine is active in human affairs, every person is precious in Gods sight but doesnt sweat the details” and ” secular world picture,” which “keeps the horizontal message of the Christmas story but eliminates the vertical entirely.”
It’s a very good column .