December 25, 2017

The Nativity in the Flesh of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ – Christmas
Rank: Feast of Our Lord

Galatians 4:4-7; Matthew 2:1-12

Christ is born!

Jesus is a king: that is obvious from today’s gospel, and it’s pretty clear in a lot of carols, too (”Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king…”). But it’s easy to slide over the fact that the child born today is a king: Luke’s account of the origins of his family, the presence of the shepherds, and the birth in a stable all emphasize God’s self-emptying in the incarnation. Less happily, popular culture has emphasized the alleged sweetness of the nativity scene (“…but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes…”); even the angels who appear to the shepherds are today often imagined and portrayed as chubby cherubs rather than the awesome army of the heavenly king.

But read today’s gospel from Matthew closely: it is filled with words like ‘king,’ ‘ruler,’ and ‘govern.’ Born into humble circumstances, Jesus is nonetheless manifested from the beginning as a king. He is contrasted with Herod, an earthly king gone rotten, for whom power is a good in itself; unlike Herod, Jesus comes to govern not for his own sake, but for ours.That is why the magi bring him gifts (gifts which foreshadow how he saves us through his death and resurrection) and why the powers of this world fear him so much. And, as our king and saviour, he makes a claim on us even from the makeshift crib in the manger: in the midst of all the other messages of Christmas, let us not forget to do homage to our king.

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