The following was presented in front of my church family on December 8th.
You can listen to it here.
Long ago, a kingdom fell into disrepair. The people hated the King and just knew he was a wicked and loveless man. But truth be told, he was wasn’t. In fact, he was humblest and most loving king there ever was. But because his crafty enemies sullied his reputation and destroyed the kingdom and made all of his subjects hate him, he simply say on his throne and pondered, “How do I fix my Kingdom and show everybody that I care about them?”
He sat for a long time.
He could use his royal fanfare to announce to the kingdom that he wasn’t a bad guy, but that he actually was a really nice guy. That would get the message out there. Buy the people would call him an arrogant jerk or a show-off. It certainly wouldn’t win any hearts.
He could spread the royal wealth and give his money to all of the people in the kingdom. But the moment the money ran out, he knew the people would turn on him for not giving them more. It would just make everybody spoiled and greedy. Not to mention, lazy.
He could send good-news spies into the Kingdom’s towns and communities to sneakily find crafty and cunning ways to convince the people that the king wasn’t a bad guy using rumors and propaganda. But this wouldn’t build trust and respect. Plus, if one of the spies got caught, he’d be called out as a thief and a liar.
“What can I do?” he thought,
Then he had a marvelous idea, to convince the world that he was actually a humble and loving King, he decided to become a beggar in the streets. To become the lowest of the low so that he could meet people, love on them despite how unkind they might be, and slowly win people to his side and way of kindness and goodness.
It was very hard work. His body ached. He smelled terrible. His advisors thought he was crazy. But he became a beggar, though he didn’t beg for money. Instead, he served everybody he met, offering to do the lowliest of tasks: cleaning latrines, washing people’s feet, carrying their heavy burdens, and listening to their troubles. He asked for nothing and slept in the streets, often starving and enduring the worst of weather.
So What Happened to the Humble King?
Did his Kingdom’s citizens come to recognize him as a kind, good, and humble king?
Did his Kingdom transform into a good place with only people who loved and lived in humility as he did?
The Strange Christmas Story
What we call the Christmas Story is a strange one. It shows the author of the vast and limitless universe, billions of galaxies, becoming a helpless newborn who poops and pees on himself (like all babies do) and doesn’t even get the dignity of a crib, but instead sleeps in the livestock’s food troff in a dark damp cave (Yes, according to our best information and findings, the stable was actually a cave).
So why did God choose the humblest possible beginnings for his entry into humanity?
Is it because God wants to show is that he is The Humblest King?
Jesus’ Birth Story is told in Matthew and Luke, with lots of differences. Most of our American Christmas traditions (as they actually relate to Jesus) come from Matthew. Luke was a Journalist who went into greater detail. And as the only Gentile in an all Jewish cast of Biblical authors, he tended to really emphasize the ‘outsiders’ in Jesus’ story in general. But in the Christmas story as told by Luke, we get more into the details and the perspectives of the underdogs.
Also, did you know that the Christmas story in Luke is a musical? (Sidenote: Any of you guys see Fiddler on the Roof?) Many sections of Luke’s telling of Jesus Incarnation included songs sung something like what you’ve seen in Fiddler on the Roof. No joke!
Luke 1:26-2:40 (Message Translation, for poetic flow)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.
She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great,
be called ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom.”
Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”
The angel answered,
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.
“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”
And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Most Blessed Woman
Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,
You’re so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!
And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.
The Birth of John
When Elizabeth was full-term in her pregnancy, she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.
On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah after his father. But his mother intervened: “No. He is to be called John.”
“But,” they said, “no one in your family is named that.” They used sign language to ask Zachariah what he wanted him named.
Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.” That took everyone by surprise. Surprise followed surprise—Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!
A deep, reverential fear settled over the neighborhood, and in all that Judean hill country people talked about nothing else. Everyone who heard about it took it to heart, wondering, “What will become of this child? Clearly, God has his hand in this.”
Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he came and set his people free.
He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives,
and in the very house of David his servant,
Just as he promised long ago
through the preaching of his holy prophets:
Deliverance from our enemies
and every hateful hand;
Mercy to our fathers,
as he remembers to do what he said he’d do,
What he swore to our father Abraham—
a clean rescue from the enemy camp,
So we can worship him without a care in the world,
made holy before him as long as we live.
And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,”
will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
Present the offer of salvation to his people,
the forgiveness of their sins.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.
The child grew up, healthy and spirited. He lived out in the desert until the day he made his prophetic debut in Israel.
The Birth of Jesus
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
An Event for Everyone
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
Blessings From Patient Prophets
When the eighth day arrived, the day of circumcision, the child was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived.
Then when the days stipulated by Moses for purification were complete, they took him up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s Law: “Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God,” and also to sacrifice the “pair of doves or two young pigeons” prescribed in God’s Law.
In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:
God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel.
Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother,
This child marks both the failure and
the recovery of many in Israel,
A figure misunderstood and contradicted—
the pain of a sword-thrust through you—
But the rejection will force honesty,
as God reveals who they really are.
Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.
When they finished everything required by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth. There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him.
Back To the Humble King…
So what happened to the king who lived as a homeless man who only served and loved and hoped to transform his kingdom?
What do you think happened when everybody found out he was actually the king?
Some folks loved him for it, but even more people hated him for it.
It didn’t end well.
Eventually, the kingdom was taken over by enemies.
But the people who loved him for it couldn’t deny the powerful impact he had on them. They too wanted to humble themselves and serve on the most extreme ways, enduring the greatest hardships, and represent their king who wasn’t physically with them any more. It became a movement defined by humility and love that almost took back the kingdom. But it didn’t fully take the kingdom back.
Instead it spread to other kingdoms, transforming them from the inside, growing stronger and bigger than any single Kingdom.
By the way, did you know that despite what people say, there has never been more Followers of Jesus in the world than there are right now?
Did you know there’s more people filled with the Holy Spirit and moving in the Supernatural right now, than there has ever been before?
The Humblest King
We have the Humblest King. And his love transforms everything. He couldn’t possibly be more humble. I didn’t even get into the cross and how much he suffered for us because of his love. But the audacious and amazing thing is that the creator of billions of galaxies manifest himself here in the humblest of ways to show us that he wants in on our lives. He cares. He did everything he possibly could to show this to us.
And remembering it, I think it transforms us into smaller humble kings (and queens).
Benediction: Mass Incarnation
So may you discover the power of the Humblest King. The one who shows off his greatest potential not with bombastic glory, but in the restraint of an infant. May you go into the world as an agent of the Humble King, full of love and service in this Christmas season, but even moreso in the beyond! Celebrating Christmas – The Incarnation of God throughout the rest of the year endlessly; becoming His hands and feet in the world today: A Mass Incarnation of our Humble King. And may you go knowing that He is with you and flows through you as the Ruach, the very Breath of God, the Holy Spirit.