Matthew 2: 1-18, John 18:36
Humans crave power. It's easy to point at political or business leaders who want to wield power, but all of us want power, control, options, to some degree.
As I conclude this series on manger characters arranged in my home nativity scenes, it must be noted that Jesus' potential political power is what drew the wise men on a long journey to His side. That story is told in Matthew 2: 1-18. At key moments in the story, we read of deceit, maneuvering and violence. When the Magi ask King Herod for directions to the new king born to the Jews, he sends them to Bethlehem with instructions to let him know precisely where the baby resides. When the Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod and to take another route home, a furious, threatened Herod kills all the boys two years old and under in the Bethlehem area. Fortunately, the Holy Family is already gone.
What makes someone worthy of power, the power of a king? I reflect often on the sarcastic truth expressed by author Douglas Adams in his hilarious work, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize...anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
So often in his series of Hitchhiker books, Adams says something in jest that actually contains underlying truth. The implication is that our kings and prime ministers and presidents are never worthy enough to do their jobs. The fact that they even seek such power should disqualify them from holding power, logically speaking.
Jesus did not seek kingly power but held the ultimate strength: Kingdom power. Political machinations swirled around His early life and revived during His ministry, because people seeking power didn't understand His true purpose. Even the band of disciples suffered from this problem; several were political rebels who joined Jesus because they thought He would overthrow the Roman rulers supervising Jerusalem.
In fact, Jesus told Pontius Pilate the opposite during his interrogation (John 18: 36):
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Jesus' power stemmed from a throne in heaven, not the one in the palace of Jerusalem.
So this is a manger of power in which the baby Jesus lays his head. The seat of His kingdom is covered in hay rather than fine fabric, positioned in a stable, not a castle. But undoubtedly, Jesus holds power, everlasting power, a power made perfect in human weakness, not in humans exercising strength. As we leave this manger symbolizing hope, obedience, inclusion, humility, and love, we acknowledge the power behind this lowly throne, Almighty God Himself.
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