"The Adoration of the Shepherds",
1622 by Gerard van Honthorst
What kinds of events accompany the coming of a king?
A meditation for Christmas
What does one expect at the arrival of a King?
Here in the America, while we have celebrities that are treated as
royalty, we have no legitimate king who rules from a recognized throne.
But we have a wealth of images from both history and fiction. The
below painting of the arrival and reception of King George V and
Queen Mary at the West Door of St Paul's Cathedral, London, Jubilee Day,
6 May 1935 confirms common notions of the pageantry, pomp
and circumstance that accompanies the coming of a king publicly
to his people.
Above: The reception of King George V and Queen Mary at the West Door of
St Paul's Cathedral, London, Jubilee Day, 6 May 1935
In such situations the long desired king is invariably
- The announcement of his arrival
- A delegation -a host of representatives
from his kingdom - showing his strength
- The arrival of the king - In proper
- The Adoration of his people
- The recognition of foreign dignitaries
If that is the case with an earthly king,
what should we expect if the king of the universe were to arrive on
earth? Would we not expect all that and more? In addition to the
pomp and circumstance given an earthly king, we'd expect the
king of the universe to uniquely mark his arrival by stamping upon
the universe itself the sign of his coming - much as an earthly king
would use the royal signet ring. We'd expect to see a sign in
the heavens and a sign on the earth - something beyond human doing
that marks the arrival of the king, the creator.
And this is precisely the pattern we see with the
arrival of Jesus in Bethlehem all those years ago. Here is how
history records the first arrival of the king of the universe.
The Announcement of his arrival:
8 And there were shepherds living out
in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the
Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the
angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of
great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town
of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2. 8-11
Followed immediately by the delegation:
13 Suddenly a great company of the
heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on
whom his favor rests."
The Arrival of the king - in proper
Here we see a slight departure from expectation due to the extreme
grace and understanding God showed during his first public
visitation while "veiled in flesh" as the hymn says. Understand, God could have arrived in all his
glory and power as the king of the universe. That certainly would
have been appropriate. But we must recall of whom we speak - the God
of the universe in whose presence sin cannot exist. The last time
God came with the fanfare of trumpets, and the pyrotechnics of
lightning and thunder atop of mount Sinaii, he nearly scared the
people to death. (Ex 20.18-19) That reaction from the people on a
mission of peace and salvation would never do. How then to present
himself in a way that will not scare them, but draw them? Who
is not attracted to a baby? Especially a royal baby - he who will be
King? And so it is the king of the universe came not in the finery
or majesty and power of a king. Rather he came adorned as an
innocent baby. He made it easy for people to be in his presence.
In fact he made it so people would want to be in his presence as the
above painting of the "Adoration of the Shepherds" depicts:.
12 This will be a sign to you: You
will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."...
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the
shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see
this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
Luke 2.12, 15
The Adoration of his people
And thus it was shepherds who were among the
first to receive and adore the king at his arrival:
16 So they hurried off and found Mary
and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. ... 20
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the
things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been
Luke 2.16, 20
The recognition of foreign dignitaries
And of course the visit from foreign dignitaries.
2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during
the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2
and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Sign in the Heavens - the star of
And what of the signs to mark his coming. As is common
with God's display of his power, the miracles that accompanied the
king were not grandiose displays to be witnessed by thousands.
Many of his miracles were intentionally witnessed personally
by just a few people. Consider the first miracle of Jesus at the
wedding in Cana of Galilee. The actual witnesses to the water that
had been turned into wine were a mere handful - the master of
ceremonies and the servants carrying the large wine. So it was with
the miracles of his first coming.
Of course there was the star - that mystical
star whose origin is still debated. Was it a natural phenomenon? Was
it result of a direct, miraculous work of God? Scholars still
debate that. What is undeniable however, is the timing, and the
effect. Consider how every year on New years eve, a
brilliantly lit ball falls in Times Square at the stroke of midnight
marking the beginning of a new year. It does not take wise men
to figure out that that whole new year's eve event is carefully
planned and orchestrated. And so it was with the star of Bethlehem.
Whether God used natural means or supernatural means to create the
star, the clear lasting impression is that the whole event was
orchestrated to announce the coming of the king.1
And though wise men were the first to figure out the star's
significance, every generation after their pronouncement has since
recognized it's significance: a king worthy of worship has arrived:
2b We saw his star in the east and
have come to worship him."
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them
the exact time the star had appeared...9 they went on their way,
and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until
it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw
the star, they were overjoyed.
Matt 2.2b, 9-10
Sign on the Earth
Here is another miracle where direct witnesses to it are few. In
fact for this particular miracle, there are only two witnesses: Mary
and Joseph. Some would argue only one. The rest must see such
miracles through the eyes of faith. Yet this is the miracle that
most clearly identifies the coming of the King of the universe. God
arranged it that way so we wouldn't miss it. This is the miracle of
Immanuel - literally "God with us". The miracle is unique - a
virgin birth. A unique name for a miracle, but appropriate to the
unique son of God and the occasion:
18 This is how the birth of Jesus
Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to
Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with
child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was
a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public
disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he
had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a
dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take
Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from
the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to
give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from
their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had
said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and
will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"
--which means, "God with us."
All things considered, there is no question
that the King of the universe arrived in a manner befitting a king.
It was clear to the wise men who sought him all those years ago. And
it is clear to the wise people who seek him today.
Duane Caldwell | posted 12/25/2015