The newborn King was recognized by so few.
Things haven’t changed much.
A baby was born in a stable—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet so few knew. Foreign wise men appeared asking: "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" Herod was alarmed. The shock was felt through all Jerusalem. What did this mean? The King of the Jews had come? Really? Who knew!
The hubbub died down. Infants in Bethlehem were slaughtered to insure no rival to Herod’s throne. Herod breathed easy while unbeknownst to him, the newborn king became a toddler in Egypt and then moved back to Nazareth to learn the carpenter’s trade with his ‘dad’.
But then one day this man came preaching: Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.(Mt.4:17) Unless you are born again you cannot enter it. You believe in my Father, believe also in me…
Some were curious. They welcomed the Kingdom as long as it served their interests. Many were healed. But His message was a hard one. Repent. Take up your cross. Follow me. The birds have nests, the fox its lair, but I have no place to lay my head…Eat my flesh. Drink my blood. No one can come to the Father except through me. There was no way around this Jesus. He was a lamb sent to save, a King come humbly riding on a donkey. But He was a King, undeniably a King; He spoke with authority. Very few believed. Few understood this King had been born for them. Few bowed the knee to give Him the honor and allegiance He was due.
His own were slow of heart to believe. They chafed at His call to repentance and faith as the only means of entering this Kingdom. Their forefathers had made the same mistake, rejecting God as their King in favor of a mere man. What's to be done with this King? The wise men from foreign lands knew; they came to worship. But his own did not receive Him. They protested "we have no king but Caesar!"
And at his trial the question came: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Wise men were nowhere to be seen now. Instead of bowing with gifts, the soldiers mocked Jesus’ claims to Kingship and crowned Him with thorns. The crowds called for His death by crucifixion.
Jesus was a humble King. He let them do to Him as they would. He had not come to condemn but to save. (Jn.3:16-18) The newborn king had grown to manhood to die for the sins of the world. Only by death could peace with God be bought.
“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done”, He had taught His followers to pray. His death was the Father’s will. Only by His death could God’s Kingdom come on earth. For only when the King holds sway in the hearts of men can God’s Kingdom be said to have come on earth.
So the Babe of Bethlehem, now grown, was nailed to a cross with a sign above His head announcing what the wise men had said in the beginning. Here hangs “the King of the Jews”. Who knew? Who believed?
Millennia have passed. The celebration of Christmas has stuck in western cultures, though its meaning is lost to most. Most know (I presume?) that a baby was born. But what of a King who is worthy of worship?
I listened again to the Hallelujah chorus this afternoon at our annual “Carols by Candlelight”. How many believe the reality of what they are singing?
The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever.
Handel’s words, taken from Revelation 11, describe a time yet future, when Jesus will return to establish His Kingdom on earth. He will come again, this King, but not as a babe in a manger, not as a lamb to bring peace with God by the sacrifice of Himself. He will come next time to reign! This will entail bringing to trial those who have refused His rule, and rewarding those who are eagerly awaiting His return. (Heb.9:27-28)There’s no in-between. The baby in the manger was the King of Kings. Celebrating Christmas has no significance apart from this. Otherwise this Bethlehem baby would long since have been forgotten.
Just as was the case the first time around, many have stopped expecting His coming. Scoffers will say: “Where is the promise of His coming?” The wait grows long. But it is not in vain. Jesus waits too--for as many as will to come to the knowledge of the truth, that the Babe of Bethlehem is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is worthy of the worship of our lives.
And so today, as we sign a contract to put our home up for sale, I’m taking this long view of things. The kingdom I belong to is not of this world. I bake cookies here. I play Christmas music—“…glory to the Newborn King”. I love the cozy and the warm of this home and I have loved owning this piece of God’s earth. But I can let it go. My Kingdom is not here. This is not my final resting place.
The King is coming to reign on earth, but in the meantime He holds sway in my heart. And if He wants us to move, I am willing. We do not see all the reasons why but we sense it is time…so we’re taking steps and trusting Him to lead us forward, for His Kingdom’s sake.
Do you know this old hymn? It was a comfort to my quivering heart this morning:
The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever
My house is up for grabs. But His is forever. This all feels a little unreal but the real estate agent was here today. This unthinkable thing is underway. Should real live homes be sold? When they are cozy and bright with Christmas lights, when they have served as secure nests for mothers and young, when they have housed so much of life and love…should they ever be put up for sale?!
But I have a King and by definition He is the One who directs and appoints our places and times. Who am I to drag my feet? I am His child, and I am His subject. And that is enough.
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. I Tim.1:17
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! Ps. 29:10-11 ESV
As we celebrate the birth of a baby in Bethlehem,
let’s remember He is the King of Kings!
I will extol you my God and King, and I will bless Your name forever. Every day I will bless you and I will praise your name forever and ever. Ps.145:1,2
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. [Heb 9:27-28 ESV]
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
[Dan 12:2-3 ESV]
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [II Pet. 3:9-12 ESV]