In a New Testament theology class I took a few years ago—or a little longer ago than that—we heard the following, and it’s one of the things that have stuck with me over time.
“The Kingdom is where the King is.” So, when Jesus said stuff like, “The Kingdom of God has come near you…,” well, you can see what that means.
There’s no secret ‘round here that Christmas is my favorite time of year. I perpetuate the season with music and other symbols for months after, and start thinking about it well before most folks do. The first turning-leaf of Autumn makes a sublime suggestion to my inner Christmas calendar.
I like all of it. Decorations, shopping, music, bell-ringers, uncharacteristic goodwill, and even jolly elves make my season bright. I bet my parents would tell you i’ve always been like this.
But, about 40 years ago I started paying attention in a different way. A way that made me feel like a member of the home team, you might say.
Over those 40 years I have heard and read lots of sermons, messages, and, these days, blogs, about how bad it all is; how the whole thing is too commercialized and secularized and consumer-driven, and blah, blah, blah. These messages come from other folks who feel like they are part of the home team, too. Often, it seems these messages come from folks who seem to think they’re the first ones to ever discover this valuable truth about the sad state of Western Christmas. They’d tell us that the sappy message of Tiny Tim is beside the point. They might say that lights and colors are far from the images of “Real Christmas.” I’ve heard them say that spending money at department stores or, Heaven forbid, WalMart, is just a disgusting practice devised by the “whoever” to distract us from true meaning. See (they might say), we’re deluded and think that what we “feel” is a real “Spirit of joy” that couldn’t possibly be from God.
Well, duh. Of course all that is apparently true. Of course Jesus didn’t come so that I could get cool electronics or bow ties on a cold day near the end of December. Of course there’s more to it.
But I still maintain that Christmas, even in its current state, is Good for the Kingdom.
Remember, The Kingdom is where the King is.
The missionaries will tell us that, in every culture, there are allusions and analogies to the Good News of Christ. It must be so, friends, for we are all created in His image. Therefore, His fingerprints must be everywhere. One of the most visible prints in our culture is this season of Christmas.
Tell me a time or occasion in our cultural lives during which more people lean in, and listen with attention to stuff about Jesus. Not even on Sunday mornings do we get so many people ready to “get with Christ.” The worst of us put up a manger scene on an end-table or a bookshelf. Even folks we wouldn’t think of as being on the home team send us cards with blessings inscribed.
Might i suggest that, during this time when so many are leaning in, we of the home team refrain from throwing rocks at that which they lean toward? Rather, might we use the momentum to draw them in?
Jesus is the King. His name is also Christ. The Kingdom is near whenever His Name is mentioned. I know, some people use an X, and some people say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. By now, however, in our culture, we know to what they all refer: Christmas! And before you can sing “Jingle Bells” backwards, the Kingdom is near!
I hope you’ll relax this year, and breathe in even the notions of Peace on Earth and Mercy Mild. May more and more men and women, boys and girls be, with God, reconciled.
And I wish you all of it. The Kingdom is Near.
Praying for you all, always.