It is “that time of year again!” Here we are in the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season. I don’t know about you, but every year I have to make an intentional focus on what’s important. It’s easy to get swept up in the business of the holidays, the materialism, and the stress of making everyone “happy.” UGH! Are we there yet? Anyone with me???? I’m sometimes so caught up in the “Busy-ness” of the Holidays that I can find myself looking around and crying out just like Charlie Brown— “Can ANYONE tell me what Christmas is all about!???” As we approach Christmas in just a few days, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on the BIG question— “Why does it matter?”
Not too long ago Gracie was looking through a catalog for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She pointed to a beautiful rendition of the Madonna and Child and said: “Oh, look at Mary. She has a special baby!”
“And the Angel of the Lord said “Fear not, for I bring you glad tidings of great joy which will be for you and all people… for unto you this day in the city of David a Savior is born….” Luke 2:10-11
A baby is a special gift. But this one is more than just a special baby who’s birth we celebrate…
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let Earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room.”
Do you ever really listen to the words of Christmas carols? Really listen and let them sink into your brain? Did you catch that verse- “Joy to the world the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King.” That is who we are waiting for— our King! The second line tells us we are supposed to be preparing room in our hearts— room to let Him be the King of our hearts. And there’s the catch! To truly understand why Christmas matters we have to be honest with our hearts and confront the reality of Jesus’ claim to be The King. We must press into the depth of this claim, because this is why “It matters.”
At Christmas we are supposed to be celebrating “Glory to the new born King.” As we approach Christmas we focus a lot on the birth of the “baby Jesus” the sweet tranquil “silent night.” And we love to celebrate the “Baby!” The quiet, non-threatening sweet baby Jesus… You know if we are not careful we can easily slip into “Ricky-Bobby mode.” Did you see Talidaga Nights? You know every time Ricky Bobby prays, he prays to the “little sweet baby Jesus.” Even when he’s chastised by his wife and she says Jesus became a grown man, Ricky-Bobby brushes it aside and says “I like the baby Jesus best.” Why? Because a baby seems so non-threatening, right?
But, you know, King Herod didn’t find “sweet baby Jesus” so non-threatening. In fact he was so threatened by this baby that he ordered the murder of all boys under the age of 2 in the town of Bethlehem. Why? What’s so threatening about a baby? It was His claim to be The King. You see Herod was lashing out at that claim. Herod was saying—“No! I am the king!”
Now let’s unpack what that means for us and why this claim to be The King matters…
If it is true that Jesus is The King, what does that mean? What do Kings claim a right to? They claim the right to rule. They claim authority. They claim a right to allegiance and the submission of others to that authority. Hmmm— Am I living like He is my King, the King with complete authority and rights to reign over my life? Are you? This isn’t just the sweet baby Jesus… this is the man who claims to be The King— The right to rule in your life, the right to authority over you, the right to have your submission and allegiance above everything and everyone else in this world. I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of times when I don’t want to give up that kind of power and authority over “my life.” I wanna sit on the throne! I wanna be the King! As Mel Brooks in the parody film: The History of the World Part II said— “It’s good ta’ be the King!”
One of my favorite preachers, Tim Keller says, if we are honest with ourselves, deep inside we all have a “Little King Herod” in our hearts. The part of us that rejects Jesus’ right to be King over our lives and says: “No! ME! I’m the king!” Maybe he’s getting smaller and less powerful as we allow the Lord more territory to reign over our hearts, but your Little King Herod is still there gasping and trying to kill Jesus’ claims to be The King— Your King. You see, getting to the “heart” of the matter, this is why the coming of The King matters. It is more than just celebrating the birth of a baby. It is celebrating the rightful King taking His throne and His rightful rule.
As you press into this Christmas season, I challenge you to do more than celebrate and worship the “sweet baby Jesus,” but to grab hold of and make real to your heart who He is, and let Him be your King. Realize this Christmas celebration is not just a feast of “arrival” but marks a looking forward to the ultimate victory and reign of the One True King. It’s not just the sweet and “silent night” we see in the Nativity scene. Christmas is a reminder of who our King is and what His priorities are.
I want to end with this last reflection on that idea to put a finer point on “Why it matters.” One day last April Grace climbed on the couch and sat next to where our Nativity is on display. I realize you’re thinking— April? Why do you have a Nativity scene on display in April? You seriously couldn’t get your Christmas decorations put away before that?! Actually, there is a reason. I made the decision about 6 years ago to keep at least one Nativity on display in our home year-round. I did this after Doug, read me a rather moving excerpt from John Eldridge’s book Wild at Heart. In it Eldridge describes how most people think of Christmas as a time of joy and peace, the serene “silent night.” What could be more unifying and joyful than the birth of a child, especially the birth of a messiah? But Eldridge explains the tranquil scene at Bethlehem as something altogether different. In Revelation Chapter 12 the Bible describes a great battle between angels and demons at the Birth of Christ. Revelation 12:1-10 says
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman….was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten hornsand seven crowns on his heads… The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations….The woman fled into the desert to a placeprepared for her by God….
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.
When we read this we can’t look at the “nativity scene” the same anymore. We have to confront that when Jesus was born the spiritual realm was thrust into warfare. Eldridge says the birth of Christ was far more like God’s D-day invasion than an olive branch extended on a silent night. Now, if you know WWII history, you know that once the U.S. joined Allied forces they set priorities for the war effort— “Germany First” and liberating Europe from the grip of the Nazis. From this priority came the D-day Invasion. The Allies invaded at Normandy and stormed across the continent ultimately resulting in the Nazi surrender and the celebration of V-E day— Victory in Europe! As a history teacher I think it would be safe to say a large part of that victory was because the Allies remained committed to their PRIORITY.
Ok so what’s the point?
We keep a Nativity on display in our home year round to remind us that Christmas is just the beginning. We are in the midst of a mighty battle. It reminds us that Christmas was the launching of God’s D-day invasion and The King is steeped in the battle to liberate us! When I walk by and see the Nativity on display I am reminded that we are God’s first priority and His first love. And that makes me love Him all the more.
Look at this verse from What Child is This?
“The King of Kings salvation brings; Let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.”
Do you see that??? “Let loving hearts enthrone Him.” That means the more you love the Lord the more you are able to let your heart enthrone Him— put him on the throne of your heart— instead of other things, or other people, or more poignantly, your “self.” How can we suffocate the “Little King Herods” in our hearts? By looking at the love offering God gave us in Himself! When we see the reality of that we fall more deeply in love with Him and no longer rebel. We kneel down and put Him on the throne of our hearts. At Christmas we are actually remembering and celebrating that WE are the focal point of the King’s liberation effort. We cannot look at Christmas without looking forward to the cross. Because the King came down and gave his life for us, we are saved! He launched a massive invasion against evil on our behalf—the evil outside us, and the evil within us. This is why Christmas matters— because it is celebrating our King coming to liberate us! And we can hold on to the promise that the ultimate liberation day is at hand— The real “V-E Day”— that is Victory on Earth…
They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30)
As Grace sat admiring our Nativity display she said to me: “Mama, I just want to sit here with Jesus for a while. Hmmmmm. How could I interrupt that? And so once again the thought pressed into my brain… We are His priority, but is He ours? This is what Christmas is about—making Him the priority—
“Hark! The Herald Angels sing- Glory to the new born King!”
“Let every heart prepare Him room.”
“Go tell it on the Mountain, over the Hills and everywhere!”
I challenge you this Christmas, to capture the reality of Jesus claim to be The King, because as The King, He lays a claim on your life. Don’t just look at the sweet Baby Jesus, give Him his rightful throne. Fall at the feet of the King who is come— not just giving Him lip service as King who has authority over the heavens and earth, but truly allowing Him to be the King who reigns over your everyday life.
And sing out—
“Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King! …. He rules the world with truth and Grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love….”
Go and get hold of this King and His love and keep hold of it. As the verse says in O’ Holy Night: “Fall on your knees… hear the angels’ voices!” Make time and room for Him in your everyday— Fall on your knees, rest at the feet of the One True King… “O’ come let us adore Him.”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
[And Pilate asked Jesus:] “Where do you come from?” (John 18:36-37, 19:9)