A King to Worship

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2, ESV)

Christmas Eve marks the end of Advent. For the past four weeks, the themes of hope, faith, joy, and peace have escorted our anticipation toward the celebration of “he who has been born king of the Jews.” A king, born from the womb of a woman and worshipped by wise men and shepherds. Baby Jesus…a king?

To more deeply grasp why Jesus was called king of the Jews, it would be helpful to give attention to our understanding of the word gospel. Through the lens of our Western filter, the word often becomes a summary of our Christian belief, with little attempt to define it. Let’s turn back for a moment and consider what gospel meant to first century followers of Jesus.

Gospel is translated from the Greek word euangelion, which means “good announcement” or “good news.” Euangelion was a royal announcement about a new king ascending to the throne. When the early followers of Jesus proclaimed the euangelion, they were announcing Jesus as king, the new king on the throne. And they did this right in the middle of the Roman darkness that ruled over them.

When a new king took the throne, it also meant a new allegiance to his way of life. While the Christmas story begins with a baby king, it wasn’t fully realized until his public ministry began nearly 30 years later. The passage known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) offers a summary of the new way of life that Jesus proclaimed. This new way of life prompts our full allegiance; we are to embody it wholly. Because this is so demanding, thankfully Christ’s generous grace flows from a well of compassion for the many moments we fail.

Life under king Jesus “involves forgiveness, generosity, humility, and seeking peace for all. It’s a life defined by love for God and for others” (The Bible Project). Forgiveness softens hatred. The hungry are fed. The homeless are welcomed. The widows are cared for. Leaders are servants. Differences give way to understanding.

Christmas may be very different this year due to gathering restrictions, the loss of a loved ones, or other hardships. But the one thing that remains the same is the reason why we stop to celebrate. Christmas is euangelion, the proclamation of a new king. Today offers a fresh opportunity to reset and recommit to Jesus.

There is a fifth candle in the Advent wreath. It is white and when lit pushes out the darkness around us. May the focus of our worship be this light, Jesus, our king.

Tracy Hanson
December 24, 2020
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