Born to be King

On Christmas Day the Queen will broadcast her 64th Christmas Message. In doing this she upholds a tradition that began with her grandfather George V who broadcast 4 speeches, and was continued by her father George VI who broadcast 14 messages. Neither Queen Elizabeth II nor King George VI were expected to become monarch when they were born but their destinies were changed when Edward VIII abdicated. Prince Charles and Prince William on the other hand have lived with the knowledge that they have both been born to be king.

Traditionally the Queen talks about significant events that have occurred during the year and so it would be in keeping with her previous speeches to make reference to her 90th Birthday Celebrations. Often she will comment on worldwide events that affect the UK or the Commonwealth. We will have to wait and see whether she comments on Brexit or, less likely on Trump. Nevertheless this year has been one which has seen seismic changes on the political scene.

Two thousand years ago Jesus was born into a world that was equally fragile from a political perspective. Herod was King of Judea, but this was not much more than a puppet role as the territory was under the jurisdiction of the Roman Emperor. His role was tolerated by the Jewish religious leaders because the stability he gave meant that they had a degree of freedom to follow their religious traditions. But there was always an undercurrent of individuals looking for an opportunity to overthrow Roman rule and implement a Jexit. Little wonder then that Herod was troubled when the Wise Men from the East arrived at his palace wanting to know where they could find the baby born to be King of the Jews.

Herod consulted with his advisors who discovered that the prophet Micah had foretold the birth of a king some 700 years before. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV) Herod understood this prophecy to mean that the baby the Magi sought was born to become King of the Jews and so he ordered the slaughter of every baby boy under the age of 2.

33 years later as Jesus was about to ascend to heaven following his resurrection, the disciples demonstrated a similar misunderstanding and asked Jesus when he was going to restore the kingdom of Israel. They were still looking for the overthrow of the Roman oppressors. Jesus’ kingdom however is not an earthly realm with geographical boundaries. Rather it is found everywhere that there are followers of Jesus.

This Christmas I pray that you will let the baby born to be king become King of your life.

This blog post featured in the December 2016 edition of Hook Focus

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Christmas Presence

For weeks now we have been bombarded with adverts on the TV and radio, in newspapers and on the internet, all seeking to persuade us of the must have Christmas present for our loved ones. Perhaps you have seen the one for the Mulberry handbags? A young couple are gathered round the fireside enjoying Christmas festivities. The young man hands his partner a box saying ‘I know we weren’t going to give presents’. She opens the present to find that he has bought her a beautiful red handbag. As she is cooing her thanks for such an amazing surprise there is a knock at the door. In troop shepherds and wise men. Each in turn declare their amazement at the beauty and splendor of the bag as a cameo nativity scene develops on the screen. In the final punchline the poor confused young man says “it’s only a bag!” at which point the background music stops and everyone else looks at him like he is out of his mind.

I don’t know the thought process that went into the advert, and whether it was meant to mock those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ at this season. Whatever the purpose the message is profoundly powerful because it clearly depicts how easily Christ is squeezed out of Christmas. A festival which was originally conceived to celebrate the Presence of Christ has been hijacked by Christmas presents. According to The Times in 2013 Britons received more than £2bn worth of unwanted Christmas presents!

As we sing carols, listen to readings and share Christmas Greetings let us not forget that the only Christmas Presence worth having is Christ himself. Yes he was born just over 2,000 years ago and laid in a manger, heralded by choirs of angels, and worshipped by shepherds and magi. But the true wonder of Christmas is that the baby whose birth we celebrate became a man whose death we revere. A Saviour who broke the chains of sin and death. A King who reigns in heaven and has sent us his Holy Spirit to bring His presence to us.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus have the privilege of his presence with us moment by moment of every day. My prayer is that His Christmas Presence will be with throughout the whole of the season, and unlike the unwanted Christmas presents, will remain with you forever.

This blog post featured in the December 2015 edition of Lifelines