Christmas: birth of earth’s king

We’re jumping to Matthew to prepare for a meaningful Christmas.

The whole narrative of Scripture is the story of God’s kingship, the kingdom of God. Earth belongs under heaven’s reign. That’s what the kingdom of God means. It’s the central theme of the Bible, and the central character is King Jesus—the ruler who restores the earth back under heaven’s reign.

In a few weeks, we’ll be celebrating the birth of the king. Okay, that’s not how Christmas is usually viewed in our culture, but it is how Matthew described it. So instead of continuing with the story of Joseph in Genesis, we’re skipping over to the New Testament. The kingdom perspective will reshape how you think about Christmas.

I do hope to return to Genesis in the future. The Joseph story (Genesis 37 – 50) is the culmination of the kingdom theme in Genesis. Joseph is the descendant of Abraham who brings the wisdom of the divine ruler to guide how Pharaoh rules, with the result that many lives are saved (including the children of Israel). It’s the first taste of the promise God gave to Abraham as they bring God’s blessing to the nations. But not all rulers are as receptive as the Pharaoh of Joseph’s day. Sooner or later comes a ruler who abuses power and oppresses his subjects. It’s inevitable. This begins happening in Genesis, but sinks to the depths in the opening chapters of Exodus. We’re meant to read Genesis and Exodus as a continuous story so we see the contrast between the Pharaoh who recognized the Spirit of God in Joseph (Genesis 41:38) and the Pharaoh who did not even recall Joseph (Exodus 1:8).

The Book of Daniel reinforces that message. In the first half, the testimony of Daniel and his friends (in cooperation with the acts of their God) leads the earthly rulers to acknowledge Israel’s God as sovereign over all nations, all kingdoms, and all kings. But then the book turns dark. The rulers are inhuman beasts who tear the nations to pieces and refuse to yield to the heavenly king. Only the action of the divine sovereign will restore his reign over the nations.

Humans cannot handle power that should reside with God. They do evil—killing to gain and keep power. At worst, they kill those who are no threat, vulnerable people, even children. That’s what the Pharaoh of Moses’ day did. More than 1000 years later, King Herod is the same kind of ruler.

So, yes: Christmas is the birth of the king appointed by the heavenly sovereign to restore earth as his domain. Jesus is the Christ (anointed ruler). His birth threatens rulers who will do anything to keep their power. The very presence of Jesus shows human sin for what it is—rebellion against God’s kingship, God’s reign, God’s kingdom. It’s what destroys humanity, both the oppressors and the oppressed. But as Matthew says, the Christ-child as one who saves Israel and all of humanity from oppression under sin.

Christmas is coming. Will you celebrate the Christ as a very different kind of king?

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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