This Christmas I have been struck by the unexpected and subversive nature of Christ’s birth. Into a world where Caesar had brought the pax romana by the strong road of oppression, God spoke the Word of peace in a vulnerable babe. It is one thing to fix eyes on the vulnerability of the Christ child. It is another altogether to recognize how God was about the business of challenging the powers of this world in unexpected ways.
While Herod sat on the throne of Judea, there came the anouncement of the prophet who would cry out as Elijah did against Ahab (Luke 1:5-23). While Augustus surveyed the vastness of his empire, he overlooked the birth of the King of Kings (Luke 2:1 ff). Thus was initiated the Kingdom of God – a kingdom that by sacrifice defies oppression. This kingdom would extend beyond the borders of Israel. God declared through Isaiah:
It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6 niv)
Salvation is promised to the ends of the earth!
For all those who yearn to see this final salvation, for all those who groan for the redemption of creation, Christmas is about getting what you want… Just don’t expect to receive it in a package you would recognize.
A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Numbers 24:17; Genesis 49:7 and Isaiah 9:7
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” I know it’s trite, and cliché, but this time of year in New England reminds me of the truth in this statement. It is wholly (or is it holy?) appropriate that the church has placed the celebration of Christ’s first and second advents at this time of year. I’m reminded of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In the film, the people of Rohan are pinned by Saruman’s uruk-hai against a dark mountain in a crumbling fortress. There was hope, however, in the last words of Gandalf to Aragorn, “Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.” When hope was lost, and the only choice facing King Theoden was a suicidal ride into ruin, their savior arrived with a host of Rohirrim to break the dark horde.
We hope not in the words of a fictional wizard but in the precedent and promise of the King of Kings. His precedent was set as the Morning Star rose to a cradle full of hay. Tonight as the sun is at its lowest and the night it’s darkest, we look forward to the promise that the light will one day break the blackest shadow at the final ascent of the star of Jacob.