Jesus: The King of kings
By becoming more aware of the kingship of Jesus, we are drawn to the heart of Christmas, says Anne Le Tissier
One of many fond memories I have each Christmas recalls my senior-school carol service where, every year, the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s oratorio Messiah: “…King of kings, forever and ever, and Lord of Lords, Hallelujah! Hallelujah!…”
I wasn’t even a Christian when I first heard this fabulous piece of music, but that didn’t stop me from joining the altos and belting out my own ‘hallelujah’ to this King of kings with tremendous gusto!
And here I am again, humming the tune as the Christmas season stamps its authority on the TV screen and the volumes of incoming post: images of a baby in a feeding trough, a bright shining star above a stable, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Magi, inn-keepers, plus (of course) the gifts, decorated trees, cartoon characters, cute animals and doves, all vying for a place on our Christmas cards.
But I wonder who or what is vying for the attention of our hearts?
Christians naturally feel concerned that today’s secular consumerism of Christmas overshadows its true significance. We might discuss it (or even grumble about it) after Sunday services, we might pray about it, we may even feel the need to write to certain councillors who’ve attempted to scrap the word ‘Christmas’ from the High Street for fear of causing offence. And all of these activities are good and necessary in their own way (except perhaps, any fruitless grumbling!).
Nevertheless, our greatest influence on today’s ‘winterval’ festivities may actually come from our own response to the King of kings and our personal obligation to uphold his rightful place in the way we choose to celebrate. And perhaps as we make that our chief concern, Christ will continue to attract other people’s worship who subsequently meet him through us.
So, let’s recall how this title came about.
“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom…for ever...” (Isaiah 9:7)
God is King over all the earth (Psalm 47:2,6—9). Having first revealed and established his kingship with Israel, he passed its administration to Jesus so that, through his perfect sacrifice, all peoples of every nation might worship him as supreme King and be welcomed into God’s kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14).
In fulfilment of prophecy, Jesus was born king of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). His genealogy highlights his royal ancestry, conferring on him his royal status; while his virgin birth verified God as his Father.
His life’s witness attested to his kingly powers over human and spiritual authorities. His teaching centred on the kingdom of God and, at his trial, he admitted he was a king. Through his perfect sacrifice and resurrection, God exalted him to the place where every knee will bow at his name and, at the end of time, the King of kings will overcome all who rebel against him.
But it’s not just a title for the historic past or heavenly future - it’s a role that Christ continues to fulfil today.
“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16)
God, in his divine wisdom, has given authority to hundreds of men and women throughout the centuries to rule as kings (or queens) over different areas or peoples of the world. But overruling all these worldly kingdoms is the eternal kingdom of God, over which he has designated Christ as King - King of God’s kingdom, and consequently, King of all the kings; imbued with divine power and authority.
It’s a truth which can be difficult to comprehend as we continue to observe the ongoing atrocities which certain ‘kings’ inflict upon their subjects and neighbours in pursuit of power, or to satisfy their greed. One might ask, if Christ is King of kings, why doesn’t he overrule or dethrone them?
But although Christ the King holds the keys to the door of God’s kingdom (Revelation 3:7-8), he has never established it by force. In fact, neither Herod nor Pilate understood the implications of Jesus’ kingship. Herod tried to protect his own ‘kingly power’ by slaughtering the potential competition from amongst the little boys in and around Bethlehem (Matthew 2:2,3,16), and Pilate had Christ crucified in fear that this ‘king of the Jews’ might lead a rebellious uprising against the Roman occupation (John 18:33-19:1,12-19).
All that these men knew of kingdoms was conquest by war, political scheming and domination through bribery or brutality - not so different to certain ‘kingly authorities’ today, who still try to suppress Christianity by force.
In contrast to the fleeting kingships of the world, however, Christ - the King whose primary command is love - offers to be king of our hearts forever, and each of us must choose how we respond. For enjoying his love for us, loving God in return and expressing that love in practice to others, is the fundamental essence of his kingdom.
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)
It’s one thing to feel frustrated by the demise of Christmas celebrations into an excuse to spend, eat and drink too much, but we all have an obligation to follow the way of our King. Rather than try to establish God’s kingdom by force - through antagonistic debate, ungodly grumbling or critical attitudes, for example - let’s seek to establish his kingdom through worshipping the King of kings. For worship isn’t simply the passive expression of what we believe through song and prayer while hidden behind the walls of a church building. True worship actively expresses itself through loving devotion and genuine surrender, manifest in our daily life, including our Christmas celebrations.
In fact, that is the crux of the kingdom of God. It’s the place where Christ the King is given full reign and authority, and that place is not a matter of geography but a matter of our hearts. Is Christ the true King of your heart or is someone or something else vying for your loyal attention?
How to worship the King of kings
* Are we, like Herod, afraid of losing ‘control’ over our lives; fearful that submitting to Christ will erode our reputation, invite his authority over the things that we hold valuable, or knock us off the throne of the little kingdom of life that we cherish as ‘ours’?
* Are we like the shepherds: interested, enquiring, seeking to find out what Christ’s birth is all about - but once it’s all over, simply returning to our usual routines to get on with life as we did before?
* Or, are we like the Magi, understanding a little without fully comprehending the whole of God’s Sovereign purpose, and yet eager to find and worship the King? If so, let’s offer him our ‘gold, frankincense and myrrh’ as part of that act of worship: all our resources, be that of time, talent or money; all of our hearts from where comes the sweet fragrance of loving adoration; and all that we are - the willing sacrifice of what we want from life, in order to fulfil what the King wants from our life.
Only you and I can know what that loving response of worship will look like in practice, but the King of kings is surely a most worthy recipient.
* We may call Jesus our King, but to what extent do the busy preparations for this festive season and the stress of meeting the 25th December deadline, on top of our usual obligations, distract us from worshipping him? Is there anything we need to change or reprioritise?
* Do we suffer a gnawing anxiety concerning the potential drain on limited finances which, in turn, overshadows our trust in the King and the promised contentment found in pursuing his priorities? If so, do we need to cut down on our accustomed spending?
* Does the seasonal encouragement to meet with family and friends intensify feelings of loneliness, grief or hopelessness, shifting our focus from the joy of God’s kingdom to the sad repercussions of a fallen world? If so, do we feel able to invite others into our home to host some celebrations ourselves?
* Are we open to reach out to others who may live with such concerns?
* Inviting our unsaved family and friends to our church carol service is just one way in which we can introduce them to the King of kings.
* Our lifestyle and attitudes will also attract (or deter) them if we genuinely exhibit the joy of God’s kingdom of love, and can offer peace and purpose where others might be stressed, anxious or forlorn.
* During the next few weeks, how could our routine, contacts, preparations and invitations make a difference to someone’s preconceived ideas about Christianity, Christmas - and ultimately, the King of kings?
* To what extent are we available to the King in order for him to make himself known to the ‘shepherds, innkeepers, Magi, Herod’s and Roman officials’ of our day?
King Jesus, thank you for your willingness to leave the glories of heaven and live a life of human impoverishment that I may now enter your kingdom. I offer afresh, all that I am to allow you to share your kingdom of love with whomever you bring me into contact, that you may inspire an eager longing in their hearts to know and love you too.