Please don’t underestimate the importance of this question. This question determines your purpose, your passion, your allegiance, your focus, your speech, your priorities, your boldness, your urgency, your satisfaction and peace, and your very identity. This is no small question.
The essence of Christmas is the announcement of THE King! The announcements to an unwed couple are the preludes to the royal inauguration ceremony of the universe. It was held in a lowly stable, in an insignificant town, under the rule of a foreign empire and proclaimed to humble shepherds. As lowly as this sounds, a mysterious and divinely ordained light would shine as a marker in the sky for Wise Men to encounter the wisdom of a new King. Even Caesar could not command his own star to mark the occasion of his ascendance to Rome’s chair. This infant King in Bethlehem was no Caesar and he never came to be one. The first Christmas is the beginning of the inauguration of a heavenly kingdom far beyond the limitations of any earthly power. There is no mere geo-political, human pomp and procession in the Christmas narrative. True omnipotence need no such thing. The birth of Christ depicts the insignificant seed of a mustard tree that promises the majesty and glory of universal ascendancy over every power and principality. The birth of Christ demands that we re-evaluate our understanding of the concept of the Kingdom.
You may ask how I can make such a claim. What does Christmas have to do with the idea of a Kingdom?
The answer is simple. The baby in that manger made the reality of his kingdom the epitome of his ministry. The gospels, especially Matthew, make this point very clear. At the very beginning of his ministry Jesus called for repentance because ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Mt 4:17). The drive of his message about his kingdom is not rallying for political change or fighting against governmental oppression or standing for rights. It is the humility of recognizing sin and repenting in faith in the one true King.
Matthew makes it very clear that Jesus was consistently differentiating his kingdom from earthly rule and it is a very big reason why Matthew refers to Jesus’ kingdom as the kingdom of heaven.’ Jesus’ kingdom parables pointed to facts about his kingdom that confused and confounded the Jewish expectation of a messiah who they hoped would make national Israel great again (sorry). The parables teach that the kingdom is not what they (or we) expect. It is like a small insignificant seed that grows beyond measure. It is like a pearl of great price that we give up all to obtain. It is given by the generosity of the owner of the vineyard. It is proclaimed throughout different soils but only grown on prepared ground. It is wheat that is harvested from among tares. It is a priceless resource that must be expanded rather than buried. It is a wedding invitation that is rejected by family only to bring about a whole new definition of family. It is a kingdom not of this world.
The kingdom parables are only some examples of Jesus’ focus on the priority of his kingdom. Matthew points out, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” (Mt. 9:35). Notice that the gospel and the kingdom are not separated. Jesus taught the gospel OF the kingdom. The gospel is the good news of the kingdom and the only entry into being true citizens of the kingdom. The conquering victory of Jesus’ kingdom is not found in the re-establishment of Old Testament law or Judeo-Christian morality in Government. Neither is it found in a re-establishment of a national identity. It is found in the cross alone! It is found in the eternal purpose for the coming of Christ – His glory in saving his people.
Jesus also connects the teaching of his kingdom with the great commission. The famous verses in Matthew 28 are also echoed in Acts 1:8. We are to be witnesses of Christ’s gospel to every tribe tongue and nation, from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria and the ends of the earth. Before his ascension and the call to be witnesses to the ends of the earth, Jesus spent 40 days during which time he taught his apostles who would be his means of establishing and growing his church. “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3).
Here are the facts. Jesus was born in the royal line of David as the true King of Israel. The recipients of the announcements, the place and circumstances of his birth, the humility of his parents, his job as a carpenter, his homeless existence in ministry, his association with sinners and tax collectors, his band of fishermen and men of low renown, and his death on a roman cross all point to the fact that his kingdom is something far from expected in this world. This kingdom was the epitome of his teaching before his crucifixion and the focus of the preparation for his apostles before his ascension. The central element of his kingdom completely revolves around his death and resurrection by which we might be saved and become loyal and loving subjects of the one true King.
Christmas is the announcement of the King and, at least in part, a kind of inauguration ceremony for a new kingdom that revolves completely around a new covenant. The new covenant was established in the King’s blood.
So, if you understand his kingdom by associating it with any measure of human power of governance, you have misunderstood the kingdom of heaven. When we come to Christ in faith and repentance, believing and trusting in his death and resurrection as our complete substitute, we are saved OUT of this world to be heavenly citizens. We may for a time live in this world, but it is not our home.
This Christmas is your opportunity to renew your allegiance to King Jesus! If you don’t know this King, look to the cross where you will find free citizenship. He paid for it.