I find it interesting that despite the growing secularization of our culture, Christmas still overflows with Christian symbols and sounds. Nativity scenes dot the landscape and scripture and theology can be heard echoing across the radio waves and throughout the aisles of department stores. People are more likely to attend church during this time of year, and Christmas pageants and musicals celebrate the coming of Jesus. It is a glorious season to be sure, but make no mistake, while Christmas is more wonderful than we can comprehend, it is also more threatening than we can imagine.
I think one of the reasons that our culture still tolerates the Christian overtones that permeate this season is because Jesus is a baby and babies are not threatening, especially when they are in a manger. But, if people truly understood the ramifications of the King of the Universe breaking into time and space, the threat would be palpable and inescapable. If he is the king, then there are some questions that we must ask. (Interestingly, most of these answers can be found in the song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.)
Who is this king? He is the everlasting Lord who has come down from heaven. He is the ancient of days and the firstborn from all creation. He is the holy one of Israel. He is God in the flesh.
Why did he come? He came to reconcile God and sinners. He came to crush the head of the serpent and redeem mankind that they may dwell with him for eternity.
How does he intend to accomplish this? He will live a perfect life and fulfill in totality what the first Adam could not do. He will die on a cross and absorb the wrath of God that should be poured out on you and me as enemies of this king. He will rise again in victory over death, which was the consequence for our treason. He will ascend to heaven in glory and continue to make intercession for those who take a knee before him. He goes to heaven to prepare a place for those who are his subjects.
How can this life be mine? This life can be yours through repentance and faith. It is an inward, spiritual regeneration so radical that it is referred to as a “second birth.”
I believe our culture tolerates baby Jesus because they see a cradle but not a cross or a crown. For many today, as with the ancient world, this baby lies there in non-threatening obscurity. But a cross looms in the future, and this gives testimony to the impact of your sin and the fact that you couldn’t clean yourself up and atone for your own sins. The cross testifies that you are guilty of treason, and this king has come to pay that debt and die in your place. The resurrection shouts the victory of this king, and his ascension marks his forever reign. This baby is anything but non-threatening.
So, while our world gives lip-service to a perceived innocuous little baby, there exists a threat so great that none will escape either his love or his wrath. There is no impressing this king with tribute, song, or offering. This king comes to take back what was his from all eternity and he comes with a sword. As John Piper writes, “The King has come. But that is not good news until we hear that the King has come to die for his rebellious subjects.” King Herod understood the threat better than anyone, but many today will blindly and happily seek to coddle a cute little baby when in fact there resides in that manger the terrifyingly powerful and majestic God who has come to rule.