Nativity Lecture 2018 05

King in the Countryside

Breaking with human practice, the king of Israel and the Saviour of the world was born in lowly circumstances. We say that of all humans because we are born as strangers to God and proceed through grace to our destiny. The same can be said of the first couple. The hoopla about the newborn king vanished quickly enough and the shepherds who were the happy recipients of the good news of great joy (Luke 2:10) disappear from the Judea’s “trending now”. It comes as a shock to most of us that the king only visits Jerusalem just like any other faithful descendant of Abraham. Christ himself needs no testimony from humans, and he would have fared no better if he had moved to Jerusalem and built a palace.

Breaking with tradition

The break with tradition was clear from the start. Kingdom for the Jewish people was not a matter of a king in Jerusalem. It was not a matter of the end of the temple services, for that would have meant hat the people had stopped sinning.

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Matt 11:7 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. Matt 11:8 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. Matt 11:9 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Matt 11:10 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matt 11:11

One would expect John, with his seismic message and mission, to be in the big cities, enjoying the blessings of God’s favour on the people of Judea. He worked in the desert regions. He did not dress or eat according to the popular customs.

The kingdom is one of heart, of the splendour of God in Christ and in us. Christ does move from the countryside. When the Heavenly Father sees faith connecting properly with His Son, he authorizes the Holy Spirit to transition from being with us and around us to being in us. He moves as it were from the suburbs to downtown. In the heart, not the mouth or ear.

We can be distracted by trappings as the magi might have been if they looked for the royal marks in the manger and not in the babe. We have become accustomed to dressing up too for all kinds of reasons and we may find ourselves evaluating people with an inappropriate lens. It is a humble arrival, yet royally majestic even a week away from the end of his life.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zech 9:9