What is at the center of Christianity?
The Christmas story in Luke says that whatever is at the center should be good news, bring great joy, and be for all people. So what is it?
In v12 Luke says there are clues, signs that point to the center. It’s like puzzle pieces to put together.
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
The signs are not ones we would normally expect. If we didn’t already know the Christmas story so well they could be seen as downright confusing: a baby, some cloths, and a manger.
What is the significance of those as symbols?
If you read the Christmas account of Luke you notice that there is a significant emphasis on the response of everyone that gets even a glimpse of the glory of God. It starts with Zechariah and Mary in chapter 1, and continues with the shepherds in chapter 2:
Luke 2.9: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
They were terrified! That was the response of every person throughout the Bible when they got even a small glimpse of God.
That the Bible is so open about fear being the response to the glory of God is not meant to portray God in any type of negative way. It is meant simply as a reality check. If God is who the Bible God says is – the Creator of the entire Universe, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent – and if we are fragile, finite human beings, then this is to be expected. How can we see a being that powerful and not be afraid?
When you read Matthew’s account you see the same point being made, with a slightly different emphasis. Matthew emphasizes the facet of Jesus being the King.
Matthew 2 opens up with the Magi searching for Jesus. They ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” This question terrifies Herod, and he goes on a kililng spree hoping to wipe out the future competition. The account ends with the Magi finding Jesus and treating him like the King that he is. They bowed down and worshipped him. They then took all the treasure they had and presented it to this baby King.
In our modern context we have somewhat of a reference for the image of a King, but probably not to the degree that 1st century readers did. A King summoned up both images of royalty and fear. Most people looked up to their King with tremendous respect and awe, yet people lived in terror of a King as well. In almost every ancient context you had to treat a King with the upmost respect. To enter into his presence incorrectly or to say something that was perceived as disrespectful could lead to your immediate death.
If this is the case, how must people have responded to the prophecies that Jesus would not only be a King, but the King of Kings? It would have summoned the same combination of hope and fear; splendor and terror.
This leads to a critical Christmas question.
How does God enter into the world God created, without scaring everyone to death? Or maybe said a different way, How does the King of all kings enter into his kingdom with more than just frightened subjects?