The Pyramid and the Manger

How can you and I make the world a better place in 2018? By questioning the pyramid and pondering the manger.

The world’s oldest structures are pyramids. Some, in places like Kazakhstan and Brazil may be even older than the ones in Egypt.

Pyramids are also a symbol of human civilization. It took a very large and well-organized population to build a pyramid; a population that was organized much like a pyramid. A massive number of workers at the bottom did the actual work.  A smaller number of slave drivers made them work. A smaller number of overseers supervised the slave drivers.  These people all served the interests of a tiny group of people, call them the “One Percent,” at the top.

This system worked because everyone believed in a great myth that said the people at the bottom depend on the people at the top for their existence. Yet, one look at the average pyramid reveals that the bottom holds up the top.

5,000 years later, we still believe the myth. All civilizations, from Ancient Egypt to the USA, are pyramids. In every society, the people at the top of the pyramid have better schools, lawyers, and roads. They breathe better air and drink purer water than the people at the bottom.

The Christmas season turns the pyramid upside-down. The King of Kings is born in the lowest place on earth. His first cradle is a manger. And three “kings” come to kneel before him and offer him gifts.

There have been times when Christians understood this. In some places during the Middle Ages, Christmas turned the social order upside down. The servants became lords and the lords became servants between Christmas Day and the Feast of Epiphany (January 6). Indeed, this often put the celebration of Christmas in a bad light for those who need a lot of order in their lives. It may have been one reason why the Puritans made celebrating Christmas illegal.

As we put away our decorations for another year, we can ask how the pyramid has been working out for us.   We can ask, are we better off when rich people get tax cuts and poor children lose their health care? Are we better off when the One Percent see their stock portfolios rise and the federal minimum wage is the same as it was in 2009? Are we better off by blaming the people below us on the pyramid for all our problems? 

Those are scary questions. They often lead to revolution, but all revolutions do is build a new pyramid.

That is why the image of the kings bowing before the Christ Child contains the answer to the world’s problems. The world will be a better place when the people at the top of the pyramid serve the ones at the bottom. The world will be a better place when  the powerful revere the miracle of every birth and honor the sacredness of every life.

If you can read this, you are above the people on the bottom who cannot read. During this new year, you will make decisions at the store, at work, and in the voting booth. I leave you with a question from Robert Greenleaf’s book, The Servant Leader. “Will this decision benefit the weakest and most vulnerable? Or, at the very least, will it not make their condition worse?”

If we let that question guide every decision, we, too, shall become wise.

Pyramid Photo via: on <a href=”″></a>

Manger Scene Photo credit: <a href=”″>RdpC</a> on <a href=””>Visual Hunt</a> / <a href=””> CC BY-NC-ND</a>

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