So there I was wrapping up my first thoughts on Christmas and the Kingdom of God, and I heard myself say, “I think I’m trying to ruin Christmas for you.”
Isn’t that nice? I’m trying to ruin Christmas for you. The only thing I can say for myself is, well, that’s really exactly what I want to do. And it goes way beyond just telling you that (SPOILER ALERT!!) Santa may not be real. (I tried to warn you!)
For most of us the Christmas season is about lights and gifts and happiness and warmth and carols and family and as Lucy tells Schroeder, “You know, Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls.”
And even for us who see a more spiritual side of the holidays, we think of a baby and a manger and angels and shepherds and peace and goodwill to men and, well, lights and gifts and happiness and…you get the picture.
Please allow me to lovingly never allow you to look at a manger in the same way again.
What we lose sight of in our celebration of Christmas is the “why” of the manger. It’s all tied up in the larger story of what’s going on in God’s story on that snowy night in Bethlehem (okay, maybe no snow, but it makes the pictures so Christmassy). Jesus does come as Savior, he does come to bring peace, He is God come to earth, all of that is true. But the big picture here is that this is the climax of God’s plan to restore his kingdom, to set all things right, to break the rule of the enemy and for the rightful King to return to the throne. (Do you think Tolkien had this in mind when he penned LOTR?) The kingdom has been reestablished and Jesus is the King of that kingdom. As the Hallelujah Chorus says, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” (Can you get a Handel on that? Bwahahahaha!)
But let’s drill that down a little further. Not only has he come to be THE King…he has come to be MY King. And YOUR king. Christmas is not about feeling good about the birth of a pleasant little baby in a hay-filled manger who gave us a great excuse to write carols. It is about the return of the King, and the call to submit our very lives to him.
This is why Paul says in Romans 10 that “if we confess with our mouths Jesus as Lord [or, wait for it…KING!] and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead, we shall be saved.” Salvation is a result, a benefit of our submission to the Kingship of Jesus in our lives. Read that word again--submission. If Jesus is King, then he has the authority, not only over all of creation, but over me and all that I do. And over you and all that you do, just in case you thought it was all about me.
This does not sit well with us in our democratic self-centered kind of life. We don’t like people telling us what to do. A king is so mid 16th century. We’re far more advanced than that now. WE are the ones who decide who our leaders will be, and if we don’t like what they want us to do, we change our leaders.
But into the midst of that comes this child, laying in a manger, angels announcing his arrival, and he comes as the King, demanding that we acknowledge his sovereignty and that we, like the wise men, take a knee before him and pledge our allegiance, submit our will to his.
So when you wrap your gifts, decorate your trees, sing your carols, set up your manger scenes, unless you’re willing to submit your will, your being, to that baby who lays there, the King who has returned, it’s all kind of empty and pointless. Everything about Christmas should call us to relinquish the control, the self-rule of our lives, and bow our knee to Jesus as Lord. That shouldn’t ruin Christmas for us--although it will for some!--but should instead call us to our knees afresh, abandoning our wills to the King of kings, and Lord of Lords.
A very merry Christmas indeed!