Far from being sentimental mush, religious mumbo-jumbo, childish wishful thinking or mythological fantasy, the birth of Christ is a compelling reason for optimism in a cynical world.
esterday, an insecure king ordered the death of every male child in Bethlehem under the age of two. It was a decree that revealed the nature of people when they are given thrones to rule. Today, we are shocked by the mindless deaths of people at a concert in Paris. It was a tragedy that reveals the nature of people when they are not given thrones to rule. Yesterday and today, bad news continues to shock our minds, break our hearts and numb our spirits to the very idea of hope.
Every election cycle in the West and the East only seems to affirm there is nothing new under the sun. New leaders emerge as shiny new alternatives to the old ones—manipulating the fears of the multitudes, building a campaign on empty platitudes, listing the failures of their predecessors and promising to be worthy successors. Change You Can Believe In. Achhe din aane waale hain. Make America Great Again. But after votes turn into victory promises turn into excuses, new leaders return to old ways and the old days seem like the better days.
Any city, state or nation with a new leader has known the euphoric joy that comes with the hope of a new leader and the familiar feeling of disillusionment that comes with the sound of hopes being shattered. As author and theologian N.T. Wright says, “It should be obvious by now that nobody locally or globally has the slightest idea how to address, let alone solve, the crisis that has come swiftly upon us.”
Before the birth of Christ, the Hebrews had been ruled by Romans, Persians, Greeks, Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians when the news came to them of another king. But this king was unlike any other king of ages past. He was not the king they wanted, expected or respected. His enemies were not their enemies. His vision was not their vision. His way was not their way.
No Saviours come out of Bethlehem. It was a small town of no significance. No rulers are born in a manger. It was a pointless place of no consequence. No kings are announced to shepherds. They were a forgotten people of no importance.
A new kind of King was announcing Himself in Israel with a new kind of kingdom—the rule of God in the hearts of people. The hope of justice brings joy to all people except the unjust. The promise of peace brings hope to all people except the violent. The idea of equality means life to all people except the ones who benefit from inequality.