King of Christmas (by Cassandra Millis)

Christian Americans celebrate Christmas in two spheres. On one hand, we have our religious traditions: lighting the advent wreath, setting up nativity scenes, singing our favorite seasonal hymns like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” On the other, we experience Christmas as the cultural phenomenon it has become: putting elves on shelves, writing letters to Santa, and singing songs devoid of any religious imagery that are no less fun. (Jingle Bells and Baby, it’s Cold Outside- ok that one is less fun. That one’s a little creepy.)

I love both of these spheres and today’s Gospel lesson touches both. Luke 20:41-21:4 deals with both a question of the paternity of our Savior (a pretty religious question) as well as a lesson for our giving (in a season of significant shopping and wish lists.)

The religious point is actually from a question Jesus asks himself, as the Scribes have become fearful to pose him anymore questions in fear they’ll look foolish. Jesus wonders how the Lord can be a “Son of David” when David prays to the Lord, and not in a paternal fashion, but in reliance on Him. This illustrates an important truth about the baby we celebrate at Christmastime. Even though he was born in a lowly manger, in the otherwise unimportant little tribe of Bethlehem, to a father who is a carpenter- Jesus has claims to two kingdoms. He is the actual Son of God, the heir of heaven and earth and all creation, but he was also raised and accepted as a son by Joseph. The first chapter of Matthew goes through the lineage of Joseph: tracing him all the way back to Abraham, and most importantly- David. King David. The Romans have taken over Israel so the heavenly chosen leaders from ancient times are no longer in control, but Jesus has a right to that throne. He is a King of Kings in every sense: transcendent and concrete, heavenly and earthly: from both sides of His family tree.

But Jesus doesn’t want to talk much about this, but rather about the Scribes and the hypocrites He sees throughout his ministry. Those who care only about their own honor. They may give, but they don’t suffer anything from their giving- instead they do so to get credit and be glorified by humanity, rather than by God. Instead Jesus lifts up a widow who gives only two small copper coins. She gave out of her poverty.

Where are you impoverished this Holiday season? Do you lack time? Do you lack joy? Do you lack rest? We should absolutely be charitable with our money this time of the year- but God, in that frustrating way that only our Creator and Savior can get away with, asks for more than we’re willing to give.

If you have no time for anything right now, between shopping and decorating and all of your “usual responsibilities” that are more than enough every other month of the year: how could you give your time to those in need? Where could you volunteer, offering up that valuable resource to the betterment of your community?

Are you feeling like a Grinch this Christmas season? I’ve talked to a number of people who no longer feel the excitement and happiness of the season. What could you do to try to bring joy to people’s lives? Who needs a smile or a kind word today- even when you aren’t in the mood to give one?

Are you just exhausted? Have you been running around so much that nothing sounds better to you than just an hour of alone time on a fluffy couch with no interruption? Who could you give that opportunity to? Maybe take over cooking tonight for your spouse so that they can put their feet up for a while? Maybe offer to babysit someone’s children so they can have a date night, or a-sit-on-the-couch-and-do-nothing-night?

I know this seems counter-intuitive: to give away what you want most but the good news is that your needs will be provided for as well. You’ve got a friend in high places you can rely on. An earthly and heavenly King who knows what you need before you even ask for it. The creator of time, the bearer of true joy, and Lord of the Sabbath (aka rest). Our King is ready to take care of all of our religious and worldly needs this advent, if we would trust in Him, give of ourselves, and rely on His strength instead of our own.

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