Dear Believers in Christ, baptized of God. As we prepare for Christmas, one wonders what it really means to people anymore. There’s so much buying and selling and getting rich, that the real reason for the season seems to fade into the background.
There are the more subtle things that can cause us to wonder, like calling the Christmas tree a holiday tree. But then there are the not-so-subtle things, like adults stampeding into stores like cattle, literally trampling people just to get a good deal on a TV. But for others the days and weeks ahead become so full of earthly activities that when Christmas finally arrives it’s like they can’t wait for it to be over. In this way, Christmas has become cheapened and empty.
But Scripture is clear. Christmas is about the Savior who comes to take our sin away. So Jesus invites us to take a break from all the wordly activities, and to find rest and peace in the real reason for His birth. He comes to make all things right between us and God, and to promise that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. He came to accomplish all things needful for our salvation on the cross.
Jesus was born to go to the cross. And so the cross is still the focus even at Christmastime. Because Jesus wasn’t born to stay in the manger, or to stay a cute and cudly baby. Jesus was born to take our sin away on the cross. And unfortunately, that’s just not the kind of “Christmas” many are looking for, or hoping for. Or, the kind of Savior they are longing for.
But Jesus doesn’t come in the way that is expected. The one who owns the whole world comes riding on a borrowed donkey. In fact, the One who owns the whole world never really “owned” much of anything of earthly value, His entire earthly life. And when the one who created everything chooses to be born in the flesh for us, there isn’t even a single room for Him at the inn. The King of all kings, and Lord of all lords, is born of a lowly virgin, in a lowly town, in a lowly stable, in a lowly manger – in a cattle feeding trough.
It’s just not what many expected from the most rich and powerful King of all. When Alexander the Great came riding into Babylon (year 331 BC), history records that he was surrounded by armed guards. The road was lined with silver altars in honor of his great wealth. Not only herds of cattle, but caged lions and leopards were made to join the procession, in honor of his great power. And of course Alexander rode into town in a chariot, a vehicle fit for a king.
But here comes Jesus of Nazareth, King of all kings, and Lord of all lords. He comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, without a single armed guard. Certainly no silver altars to be seen. If He wanted, He surely could have had the red carpet rolled out like never before, in a way that would make even Alexander the Great shrivel in humbleness.
But here He comes, riding on a donkey to show that He comes in peace, meekness, and gentleness. He chooses to hide His great power because He doesn’t come to intimidate, or to force His will on us. He doesn’t come to bring condemnation for our many sins. He came to take our sin upon Himself. Isaiah says He was wounded for our transgressions, He brusied for our iniquities, and by His stripes we are healed.
Perhaps the closest we’ve ever come to having an earthly King visit us, would be to have a sitting President visit the State of Nebraska. But a sitting President is probably never going to visit our hometown of Norfolk. It’s not impossible, but it’s just not very likely either. And imagine how much more unlikely it would be to have a sitting president make a personal visit to our own home.
But “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee.” The King of all kings and Lord of all lords not only makes His way into your home, but into your heart. He comes riding on that donkey, that is, He comes gently, by gentle words of forgiveness, by the comforting waters of Holy Baptism, and by His true body and blood, given and shed for the remission of all our sins. He gently assures us that there is enough forgiveness to go around for all.
What would we do if we were the most powerful being in the Universe? Probably not ride on a donkey. But Jesus knew that if He came in any other way, rather than in meekness, everyone would cower in fear. That was Moses’ reaction at the burning bush. That was Peter’s reaction when He saw only a glimpse of God’s power, when Jesus filled his boat with fish. That was the reaction of the shepherds when the Angel came only to make the announcment of Christ’s birth. They trembled in fear, so he had to calm their fears, saying, “Fear Not.”
Jesus did not come to force anyone into anything. He came to save us from our sins. He came to us in the only way we could receive Him: Lowly, meek, and humble. Riding on a donkey. Showing the whole world that He comes not with judment, but with the peace of sins forgiven. And being justified by faith we do have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This just isn’t what the world wants. The world wants everything to be rich and glorious and powerful. And if something isn’t funny enough or entertaining enough or rich enough, it just isn’t worth it. “A Savior who comes on a donkey. A Savior born to suffer? Please. How much more interesting to watch a sports hero rise to number one. Or how much more exciting to watch Alexander the Great on the big screen, conquering the world.”
And perhaps we’ve driven around the day after Christmas, and witnessed Christmas Trees literally thrown into the garbage, the very day after Christmas. That’s exactly how much Christmas means to many people. It’s just another holiday, and now it’s time to get ready for the next. It really doesn’t mean anything more than that to them. Because a King who comes in meekness, just isn’t worth it in dollars and cents, and in terms of earthly excitement.
But Jesus does come bringing salvation, eternal life, through mere words, water (Baptism), bread, wine (the Lords’ Supper), as foolish as it may seem to the world. Yet, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Even when Jesus showed His power, it was still somewhat hidden. Jesus knew where the donkey would be, and what words would be needed to make the owner comply. On the surface, it can seem like such a small and unimportant thing. And that’s exactly the way the world views it. But this shows that Jesus is the all-knowing, all-powerful God.
Which of us could go borrow, not a friend’s car, but a complete stranger’s car? How would we know which house to choose, and how would we know what words to say that would convince the owner to let a complete stranger to borrow his car? But Jesus knew exactly what to do and say, because He is God. And not the smallest detail that is needed in our lives, gets past Him either. He continues to make all things work together for our good as well. Not always in the way we’re expecting, or even wanting, but always in the way that best serves our eternal soul. His humble promise is that He continues to make all things will work together for our good.
So Jesus comes meek, He comes lowly, for our salvation. May our hearts then be humble and lowly too, through repentance and faith, ready to receive our humble and lowly King. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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