Champion of Christmas
WORDS BY TIM HUNTER
Christmas is rapidly approaching––and with it are all the common holiday festivities and celebrations. Hot cocoa, Christmas carols, lights, manger scenes, Christmas trees, you name it. The Christmas season is full of quaint traditions, both timeless and contemporary. Even from a Christian perspective, we often focus on certain aspects of the Christmas narrative: Jesus in a manger, Mary and Joseph, the three wise men, or frankincense. But what if I were to tell you that the thing that takes my breath away is not a picture of Jesus in Mary’s arms, nor the thought of frankincense and myrrh, but rather a vision of Jesus as King, Jesus as the Champion of Christmas?
Recently, I read through the Christmas narrative in Matthew 1–2. I was struck by the side-by-side picture of two kings. One had earthly power and wealth at his disposal. The other was a baby born into poverty. One ruled history and the other was just a blip on the scope of history. I am speaking of Herod the Roman king and Jesus of Nazareth. I believe that a closer examination of these two kings side by side will open our eyes to the wonder of the Christmas story in a fresh way.
Let us look to the lineage of these kings. Matthew starts off with what seems like 14 of the most boring verses in the Bible. Name after name after name. This person had this child, this man begat this child, and so on. However, what may seem boring points us to the wonder of a King who was promised thousands of years earlier. Jesus the King was not just a king born at a time in history, but he was destined to be born before the beginning of history. The genealogy of Jesus reminds us that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise. That he was the Christ, the coming Messiah that would rule forever. But Jesus’ lineage was not just earthly. Matthew 1:18 clearly states that this child came from the Holy Spirit. The lineage of this King was eternal. His family line cannot just be traced to a man or woman. Jesus’ lineage can be traced all the way back to the annals of eternity where he dwelled as God. It can be traced back to the pages of the Old Testament Scriptures until the day he exploded on the scene, incarnated as God and man. This King’s lineage was like no other. His dual lineage was forever etched both on earth and in heaven.
Contrast that with Matthew 2:1, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king.” Herod’s lineage, in contrast, was positively earthly. He had power, no doubt, yet this small verse is a reminder that his days as king were numbered. His lineage was earthly. His reign would be temporary, and he would just be another name on a page. Consider the lineage of these two kings and see Jesus rise above as the champion of an eternal lineage.
Next, consider the mission of these two kings. Jesus came to earth for a specific mission: to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). This was written more than 2,000 years ago, and you and I are evidence of the accomplishment of this mission. In Matthew 2, we see another mission from a vastly different king. Herod, drunk on power and swimming in pride, ordered all male infants to be murdered in a scrambling attempt to prevent the Messiah from becoming King. He intended to stop the mission of Jesus before it started, yet he failed. Warned by an angel of the Lord, Mary and Joseph escaped with Jesus to Egypt as Scripture predicted would happen (Hos. 11:1). Herod’s mission was thwarted. The mission of Christ will never be thwarted. Where King Herod emphatically failed in his mission, King Jesus emphatically accomplished his. King Herod’s mission of destruction would fail, but Christ’s mission of salvation would succeed. Consider the mission of these two kings, and see Jesus rise above as the King with an unstoppable mission that cannot be thwarted.
Finally, consider the reign of these two kings. In reading Matthew 2, two words jumped off the page to me in a way they never had before: “Herod died” (v. 19). King Herod wielded much power when he was alive, but that all ended with those two simple words. Kings of this world come and go. Every single one of their reigns comes to an end––Herod was no exception. The startling reality is that the baby that Herod tried to kill would be the Judge that he would face after his death. Jesus shared death in common with Herod. Jesus would die, too. Jesus says in Revelation 1:18, “I died.” However, unlike Herod, this King did not stay dead. He continues, “and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
For Jesus, death was just a comma. He lives and reigns forever. For Herod, death was an emphatic period. His reign came to an end and he would one day bow to the baby he tried to kill.
The man who, while on earth, swaggered in cruel power would kneel like a trembling infant before the baby he attempted to murder. Consider the reign of these two kings and see Jesus rise above as the King with a reign that never ends.
I firmly believe that we must grasp the full scope of the Christmas story. A story that points to the baby in the manger as the unstoppable, eternal, cosmic, reigning, all-powerful, all-glorious King of the universe. When we see the fullness of the story, the reality of Matthew 1:23 leaps off the page and into our hearts: “God with us.” This King with an eternal lineage, an unstoppable mission, and a never-ending reign is with you. Let that be what you celebrate this Christmas. Jesus, the Champion of Christmas.