For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness 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.
This week we are looking closely at the main characters of the Nativity story. Today we finish with the most important character, Jesus.
From the beginning, Jesus was a paradoxical figure. He was seemingly incongruent with expectations, contradictory to the dominant narrative of God. The people of Israel were waiting for hundreds of years for a savior, a king. They were expecting a triumphant ruler, a man of royalty and power. Instead, they got a baby born in a barn for animals, surrounded by animals, and well, animal smells. This savior was born into a peasant family, not a royal one. This king was a peace-maker, not a war hero.
Jesus, the man, taught us that the kingdom of God is nothing like what we expect. He said things like, “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last,” and “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Paradox.
God could have demonstrated power and might in the traditional, expected ways. God could have provided a mighty warrior-king who would rescue and restore the people of Israel. But that dream was small and short-sighted. God had bigger plans, though at the time it didn’t look like God was doing anything at all. Jesus looked so different from what the Jewish people had hoped for that most could not accept him at all. They rejected Jesus and the good news that he brought.
What about that triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? Those people most likely thought Jesus was the ascendant king who would oust the Romans. But they were misguided, and according to their criteria, Jesus failed, the Romans remained. Instead of leading a people to victory, Jesus died a humiliating death on a cross. And seemingly, the people’s dreams died with him.
For thousands of years, people had an image of God that fit their idea of what a God should be. But with the incarnation, God in the flesh, Jesus demonstrated to us what God was really like. And it turns out, God is not a big, powerful tyrant, dictating what people will and won’t do. Rather God is a big, powerful servant, inviting people to join him in bringing the kingdom of heaven here to earth.
As long as we expect success to look like wealth, strength, and achievement we will continue to miss the opportunity to lead people to Jesus. Because Jesus’ story invites us into a path of meekness, descent and powerlessness. May you remember this paradox as you embrace the birth of Immanuel.
God, change my heart to be one of meekness, humility, grace and mercy. Show me how to love at all times, give freely, humble myself before others and submit myself to you. Thank you for the gift of Jesus. May I live each day in such a way to honor that gift. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.