As Christmas approaches, we hear slogans like:
“Put Christ back in Christmas.” Or “Remember the Reason for the Season.”
Now, slogans can be good, but only when given thought to what they mean. It’s not enough just to say Jesus is the reason. It’s important to see what actually happened, and the magnitude of the event. It’s something we’ll overlook if we don’t see it for what it is.
Let’s look at three quick points from scripture that help us to not miss what God is doing:
- The Angel’s declaration to Mary about her son’s Kingship:
“Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33 ESV)
This was the moment that God’s people had been waiting for, the moment prophesied for centuries. God was setting things right by placing his very Son on David’s throne, and this kingdom will never again fall, something that happened quite frequently to those who sat on the throne throughout the Old Testament. This was it.
- This Kingdom begins with an un-royal birth:
“While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7 ESV)
Surely this was not how the Son of God was meant to be born; not the way a King was destined to enter his world. Clearly, the people of Bethlehem forgot the words to the Christmas Classic “let every heart, PREPARE HIM ROOM.” They forgot to roll out the red carpet or notify the palace that the King of the World was being born. All they had to offer God’s son was a bed made from an animal’s feeding trough.
Yet this did not offend or catch God by surprise, it was part of the plan. And not just the plan for His son’s birth, but it was the blueprint for the entire Kingdom His Son was bringing (start by reading His beatitudes if you want to see how his entire Kingdom functioned differently than any earthly kingdom before.) Jesus was born in a barn instead of a palace and His birth was announced first to shepherds, not to dignitaries. His arrival makes no sense to the enlightened, but the humble King never changes. Every move He made for the next 33 years made no sense to the religious and political crowds of His day. When, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem as an adult, now even his closest followers thought He was going to ride to the palace and take control, but He entered on a donkey instead of a stallion, just as he had done when He was born. Jesus was born into humility, He lived in that humility, and He did it all to be near to the broken. This was what His kingdom looked like then and what it looks like now.
- Is this the King promised by Isaiah?
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with Justice and with Righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)
This prophecy was passed down from parents to their children, it gave them hope that a savior was coming. Yet, Jesus didn’t fit what many had in mind. They couldn’t see how the governments of the world could rest on the shoulders of a man who didn’t seek political office. Jesus’ life was a window into a kingdom that was no longer coming, but that was “in your midst.” And while we wait for the ultimate fulfillment of that Kingdom to come, we should be careful not to fall into the same traps they did 2,000 years ago. Our king is with us, His kingdom cannot be rigged, and it will never end.
This “Christ” we want so badly to put back in Christmas, do we really see him and his kingdom actively being “Wonderful” in the world around us? Are we letting our King who is “Counselor,” comfort and guide us in our daily lives? Are we placing this “Mighty God,” at the proper throne above all else in our lives? Can we actively see this “Everlasting Father,” walking with us still to this day, despite what today’s news headlines have to say? Are we letting this “Prince of Peace” speak to the waves of chaos that comes along with living on planet earth?
If we say no to these questions, no clever Christian sayings will do us any good this holiday season. We are simply missing what the heart of Christmas is, what Jesus Christ and his Kingdom is all about. But if we can answer “yes,” or like me, at least admit that we want to ask God to help us see his “invisible/upside down Kingdom.” Then we are on the verge of actually getting it.
Let us be careful not to overlook a King that would be born in a stable, or what that means. Let us not be like Herod who feared to lose his earthly kingdom to a rival earthly king. Nor let us overlook the revolutionary who lived in the same humble manner he was born, who spent his life with “no place to rest his head,” never ascending to a throne in a palace. Let us not be like the Jewish people of Jesus’ day who, in the end, dismissed Jesus, because his “kingship” didn’t involve overthrowing the Roman government. Let us not be like those closest to Jesus who constantly inquired when his Kingdom would begin. They all missed the point, the Kingdom is at hand, and what began in Bethlehem will never end, though it may not look like what we are looking for, instead let us be like the sorrowful thief on the cross, who as J.C. Ryle puts it:
“saw no scepter, no royal crown, no outward dominion, no glory, no majesty, no power, no signs of might. And yet the dying thief believed, and looked forward to Christ’s kingdom.”
Grace and Peace to you. Merry Christmas.