I’m a feminist but… I’m still a sucker for good princess stories.
I love the idea of being special (who doesn’t?). I love royalty being bestowed upon good people who serve their kingdom. I especially love the idea of a young daughter fearlessly weighing in on matters of state, albeit seasoned with just enough decorum for what’s at stake.
Of course, not all princesses are born into royalty. But when they are, there’s so much baggage of the state. It’s hard to shed the feeling of being a prize, a treasure, a someone-born-for-someone-else. It’s easy to think of her as merely a trophy for some handsome prince who’ll later be king.
The church does not help in all this. Borrowing from texts like Ephesians 5, 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Revelation 21, Christians often say the church is the bride of Christ – metaphorically speaking.
But I dare say this distorts our perspective. I can understand the appeal of saying the gospel is like a fairy-tale, but some of those tales have a sickly-sweet edge. Count me in for the magic and the mystery, but I don’t want a faith draped in pretty white veils. And I don’t want to be dolled up to fit the image.
It’s also true that Jesus is a king, the King of kings, the Prince of peace. ‘Majestic’ is too small a word for him. My favourite part of Revelation, maybe the whole Bible, is when he rocks up on a white horse, with many crowns on his head and words written on his thigh: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
I can’t imagine that ever getting old.
But last Christmas, on Christmas Day, something occurred to me.
Once upon a time, Jesus was a boy, a young prince if you will. He had to grow up and learn about all the truth and all the nonsense that surrounded who he was and what that meant. He was a child, just like how I had a been a child.
And I realised there was a place for thinking of Jesus as someone I might grow up with, rather than grow up for.
And that comforted me.
A short look at the Bible
Today’s reading is the second servant song from Isaiah: Isaiah 49:1-7.
As with the other servant prophecies, it’s hard to interpret this as referring to the nation of Israel. Because it says God’s servant will “restore the survivors of Israel.”
And yet, that is “too small a thing.” He’ll also be a light to Gentiles, so that God’s salvation may reach the ends of the earth.
I love the last verse in particular: leaders of all nations will come and pay him reverence, the one who was laid in a manger.
God’s first promise to Abraham was that all nations would be blessed through him. In Jesus, we find that fulfilment: a descendant of Abraham who has given the whole world a better understanding of God.
You wouldn’t think a single man could achieve something so big. But then, you wouldn’t think that God could become a human child. The mystery of Christmas is found at both ends of the scale – the very great and the very small.
And Isaiah, and Luke, and Matthew, John, Micah, Ezekiel and Malachi wrote to tell us about this. Along with many other authors, whose names we often don’t know.
Their writings are like lenses. Lenses bring to the human eye the sights of both distant galaxies and the tiny cells within our bodies. In a similar way, these prophecies and gospel accounts help us grasp Christmas in terms we can understand.
Because there is too much wonder here to be missed. Too much good news to be kept hidden away.
This is the story of Jesus. Of God-with-us. Of the one who came to save us.
He brought us hope that he shall wipe away every tear. That one day, the world will be full of his wisdom, justice and peace. And though that day has not yet come, we still celebrate God breaking into the world.
We celebrate to remember the birth of Jesus the Christ. Because we know that God will surely bring to completion the work that he began.
Happy Christmas to you, and everyone you love and pray for.
Invitation to pray
We each pray in our own way; some of the best advice I had was ‘Pray as you can, not as you can’t.’ So I offer an invitation to pray – not an instruction.
Thank God for giving us Jesus, and for sharing in our fragility.
If you have any questions or feedback about this series, please feel free to contact me. I do my best, but can make mistakes, and my theology is always under construction.
All posts in the series can be found via the tag Xmas2020.