It is easy to downplay or domesticate the Christmas story. The whole thing smacks of squalor and desperation rather than romance – the teen mother, the last-choice accommodations, the company of livestock.
If you ascribe eternal significance to these events, they are theologically and socially subversive. Rather than being a timeless Other, God somehow assumed the constraints of poverty and mortality. He was dependent on human care and vulnerable to human violence. The manger implied the beams and the nails. To many in the Roman world – and to many since – this seemed absurd, even blasphemous. Through eyes of faith, it appears differently. Novelist and minister Frederick Buechner sees the “ludicrous depths of self-humiliation [God] will descend in his wild pursuit of mankind.”
In the story, politics plays a marginal but horrifying role. King Herod perceived a vague threat to his power and responded with systematic infanticide.
But the incarnation has unavoidable social implications. If the deity was born as an outcast, it is impossible to view or treat outcasts in quite the same way. A God who fled as a refugee, preferred the company of fishermen, and died as an accused criminal will influence our disposition toward refugees, the poor and those in prison.