Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Expecting a King

It’s Advent season and in church we are singing Christmas carols. This Sunday we sang one particular carol that spoke of the coming of a King. I know that as humans we try and fail to wrap our minds around God becoming flesh. I sang this carol and tried to wrap my mind around the coming of a King.

As a citizen of the United States, I have no idea what it means to hope for a king. Truly, in our modernized, industrialized, and globalized world, hardly a country exists anymore that waits in eager expectation for a king. Instead, Americans anticipate election years or demand resignations from world leaders. We threaten economic sanctions on governments who would propose to oppose us. And, if we must, we send our very own, our young women and men, to bear the cause of democracy. No, I have little idea what it is to long for a king.

Where monarchies still exist, they are mostly in name only. Still, they seem to be a common rallying point for their people. Japan’s monarchy claims to be 2,666 years old with an unbroken line of emperors. Much historical debate exists around this statement; still it is a monarchy that outdates any other existing one in the world today. And until this year, it was a monarchy on the verge of dissolving due to the inability of either of Japan’s princes to produce a male heir. Between the two of them and their wives, they have birthed three daughters and according to the law, the crown cannot be passed on to a female. An initiative was being drawn up to change this law, until one of the wives became pregnant and then the entire country held their breath and awaited the birth. A son was born and the unbroken line of emperors remained intact. This was an interesting political and cultural dilemma for Japan because the royal family holds no political power. The Prime Minister and the parliament, all of whom are elected officials, hold political power. Instead the Japanese monarchy represents a state religion, even though the Emperor cannot claim to be divine. Still, Japan heaved a sigh of relief when a son was born.

In America, we don’t anticipate the birth of a prince, or for that matter, a princess. We are a democracy and in theory we vote in order to be represented in all forms of government. America represents a level political playing field where, also in theory, a poor boy from Arkansas can become president or a woman can become Speaker of the House. Still, we have our own ‘royal families’ composed of old money and bloodlines. But instead of births we lie in wait for election years anticipating the political victory of a president or governor.

1 Samuel 8 in the Old Testament records Israel’s desire for a king. They were the only nation without one, and so they looked around and wanted to be like everybody else. They wanted a king who would represent them, who would lead them into battle and judge them. Israel was a theocracy, with God as their leader. God warned them about kings, about what kings wanted, expected and demanded. He told them a king would be their demise. Still, they asked for a king. And so, they got ‘em, a whole list of kings that divided their nation, fed their children to the fires of Molech, taxed and impoverished them. In the end, Israel waited and expected only that one King who would make everything right again. He would restore the monarchy and the nation.

The King who was born for Israel was not the King they had been expecting. Truly, not many Jews even acknowledged Him as King. He did not come and overthrow a government and He did not restore Israel as a nation. Instead, He turned water to wine, healed the sick, hung out with public enemies, and occasionally did some fishing. I don’t think this is the King I’d be expecting either. In fact, the carol I sang on Sunday went on to say that this King would set the oppressed free and I thought to myself, “27 million slaves exist in the world today, more than at any other time in human history. The expected King came, and the oppressed still are not free.”

I find myself getting caught up in that Kingdom where the oppressed are free, everyone has enough to eat, disease no longer exists, and everyone lives in equality. I believe in Kingdom living, a way of life that is gospel-centered and hinges on more than mere personal conversion, but on righteousness and justice that make up the foundation of Christ’s throne and lovingkindness and truth (Psalm 89:14) by which He leads and should be demonstrated toward all humanity. I recognize my own tendencies toward living in a materialistic fashion, and wonder how I can live in a more just and loving way.

I immerse myself in considering what it means to belong to Christ’s Kingdom, and forget to expect a King. My days are so filled with what I see as wrong with the world that I fail to recognize the importance of a King. A king represents his kingdom. This King is just, is righteous, is love, is truth, and because of who He is, so will His Kingdom be. I believe that Christ’s Kingdom can find immediacy on this earth and that I as a gospel follower must seek to represent both the Kingdom and the King. But how can this be done if I am not expecting Him?

In the Christmas stories of Matthew 2 and Luke 2, I read that when those who came to see the Baby realized who He was, they worshiped Him. They recognized that the One, the King they’d been expecting, had arrived. The import of His arrival, I am certain, was not lost on them. But they didn’t get caught up in what it would mean for their King to be born. It probably seemed odd to them that a King was born in a barn. But their focus did not remain on His poverty or on a coming Kingdom. Instead they simply brought their gifts, bent their knees, and worshiped.

The course of human history was changed because this King was born and I know that it should change the way I live my life. I hope I am changing a bit more each year because He was born. The future for me and for the world changed because this King was born and died and rose again. But this Advent season finds me hoping that I am changed because I am expecting Him, a King who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Because of who He is, and not just the Kingdom He represents, I will worship.

4 comments:

angela heirendt said...

this is a beautiful meditation, a blessing to me this morning. hope you're feeling better.

angela said...

hey, so i'm not sure what's going on with blogger.

but that elfyourself thing. that was funny. just wanted you to know.

la femme elisabeth said...

This makes me long for the New Earth even more...

Courtney said...

Merry Belated Christmas to you friend. I loved your letter. When will we see you?!

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