Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus heralding the beginning of his glorious, all-conquering kingdom on this planet. What it’s become instead is a dumbed down, domesticated, touchy-feely, emotion-driven, mystical, self-indulgent soppiness where grown people wish each other a Merry Christmas as if the world is a wonderful place full of magic and joy.
In reality the world is not full of magic and joy. At the present rate of climate change we’re on an irreversible trip to self-destruction, aided and abetted by the stupid customs and traditions of Christmas, in which we exchange mostly non recyclable gifts that end up at the local dump, we cut down perfectly formed trees by the billion for twelve days of twinkly lights on our Christmas trees, and we teach our children they are entitled to such nonsensical behaviour because it feels nice.
And maybe it does feel nice roasting chestnuts on a flaming fire and watching little kids eyes light up on seeing all the presents they’ve got, but that’s not what Christmas is about. It was never meant to be merry, or to create happy family memories that warm the heart. Christmas in its original intent was an announcement about the arrival of a king whose kingdom would be taking over this world forever. It was the start of a revolution on an unprecedented scale, full of eternal promises and consequences.
And it didn’t have its roots in a Christianized set of pagan customs either, that have sucked even mature Christians into what Christmas has become today. Christmas, the true Christmas that is, had its roots way back in the book of Isaiah and a prophecy about a child being born who was, in fact, God coming to this earth to rule it with the kind of justice and peace we long for but can never create ourselves.
And right now, at this very moment, he’s in the process of setting up his kingdom on this earth so that one day “all nations will stream to it” to be taught his ways – instead of the corruption and selfishness our world feeds on today. And he’ll make sure that no nation will ever again “take up sword” against another nation, and “no one will be trained for war anymore.”
And if only we’d spend the time reading the story of Jesus’ birth, we’d learn that representatives from the most powerful empire on earth at the time came to Jesus from miles away to worship him as king, because they knew this is what he’d been born for. It wasn’t to wish him a Merry Christmas, or exchange gifts, or put up a Christmas tree in the stable, it was to scare the liver out of king Herod in their request to worship the new king of the world.
They were the first major shot across the bow to all the reigning powers on earth that a new king had arrived, exactly as predicted by Isaiah – and on the exact date predicted by Daniel – and this new king had been given all the authority and power he needed to set up a kingdom that would “never be destroyed.”
And roughly thirty years later, a flowing haired eater of locusts and honey suddenly appeared on the landscape yelling “I’m the voice predicted in Isaiah who’d be calling out, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming,’” to confirm the arrival of this new king of the world. The revolution had begun.
And the very next day, guess what happens? Jesus arrives on the scene and John the Baptizer hops up and down yelling, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
Them’s fighting words all right, aimed right at the heart of the political system ruling over the Jews at the time, because the head of the Roman Empire, Augustus Caesar, had taken that same title, “son of god” too. His father, Julius Caesar, had claimed he was a god, so his son naturally assumed the title, “son of god.” To call Jesus the “Son of God” too, then, was a second shot across the bow to the reigning powers that he was the one who had the right to that title, and no one else. The revolution was now truly on its way.
Mark then confirmed all this at the very beginning of his book, describing the Christian message as “the gospel about Jesus Christ, Son of God,” exactly as predicted by John the Baptizer from the book of Isaiah. Same shot across the bows, and the same announcement that the revolution had begun. Thirteen verses later, Jesus himself announces, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”
The good news of what, though? It was the best news ever, that his kingdom would soon become the ruling kingdom on earth, and at last people would have a choice. They could dump all the ways of this world that had never solved anything and follow the ways of his world instead. And to give them a good idea of what the ways of his world were like, he demonstrated them for the next three and a half years, and they were summarized by Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount. The revolution had begun, along with a clear manifesto of what it entailed.
And that’s what we’re faced with as Christians when Christmas comes up again. It’s about joining the revolution of living the ways of Jesus’ kingdom now, so that one day we get the chance as Jesus’ partners to teach the whole world his ways.
It’s not about roasting chestnuts, it’s about confronting the world with a whole different way of living and thinking that Jesus taught. It’s not about wishing people a Merry Christmas, it’s saying, “Long live King Jesus; up the revolution.”