King Jesus is born in Bethlehem of Judea, right in the midst of Herod the Great’s reign as king of Judea. The Jews are hoping and waiting for a king (the Messiah, the Servant of Yahweh, the Prophet) to be born in the city of David to deliver them from foreign rule and restore the kingdom of Israel. To us, today, a Saviour is born—Emmanuel. As we celebrate Christmas, it is integral for us to understand that we are not celebrating a mere birth, but the incarnation of Yahweh.
The Kingdom of King Jesus landed on an earthly political kingdom, which resulted in its misconception of a revolution. When Jesus was born, Herod the Great, who was king of Judea at that time felt threatened. This was because he was not a genuine claimant to the throne, for reasons such as him not being a Jew—his father being an Idumean and mother an Arabian. He had been made king by Romans. Therefore, when the birth stories of Jesus, the true King of the Jews, reached him through the Magi of the East, he felt as though his kingdom was coming to an end, since he was mindful of the coming true king of the Jews. And, the wise men made it clear that they were looking for the new-born King who was pronounced by the appearance of the star, presumed to be the one for King David. However, in a true sense, Herod’s kingdom was political and earthly, given to him by the Romans, and could be taken away. Whereas, the Kingdom of Jesus was spiritual given by God and was clothed with eternity.
Meanwhile, the Jews had an intense hope that the Messiah, (Anointed One) was about to come and be an ideal king standing alongside an ideal high priest or embodying both figures in one person. They likened this hope to the kingdom of heaven, which to them simply meant Israel’s God becoming King over the whole world, above all rulers and kings. They were expecting a military king who was going to fight their battles and also revive the Temple. To them, the central symbol of the Messiah was to establish a dynasty that will rebuild the temple and fight Israel’s battles.
N.T. Wright concluded that the Jews did not know exactly what the Messiah would look like. It seems to be whatever people made of it. However, their imaginations were vastly influenced by the life of King David. On that day, the long night of exile (the present evil age) would give way to the dawn of renewal and restoration, the new exodus. To be precise, their expectations were more political rather than spiritual.
Through the birth of Jesus, God became King. The birth of Jesus marked the implementation of God’s redemption plan for his people. Tom Wright believes that the story of Jesus is the story of God in person. The Matthaean version of the Gospel attests that the birth of Jesus marked the fulfilment of the prophecy made by Isaiah—the Emmanuel which means God with us. Throughout the Old Testament, God had always wanted to be intimately related to his people, but couldn’t because of sin that immensely clouded humanity. Thus, the birth of King Jesus commenced the original divine redemption plan that enabled God to live among us.
Therefore, as we gear up for our annual Christmas celebrations, we should know that to Christians, the birth of King Jesus marked the genesis of our salvation. It was God inward bound to the world so that he might display his perfection, righteousness, and holiness. Through his work of modelling a perfect life and dying on the cross for our sins, we are saved and attain the gift of eternal life. God vividly displayed his Agape love for humanity. Thus, he who was God in the flesh, perfect, pure, holy, and who died on the cross and rose from the dead, is the one who gives the true meaning to our Christmas. And, we must make sure that we celebrate him and his divine everyday deeds displayed in our lives.