Who is he, this King of glory? Hailed a king at birth to parents who were not even royal. Surely it’s used only as a cliché by many; a king should be born in a palace and should reign over a kingdom. Even if he were a king, much time is not spared to study his policies, his rule, or his ascent to the crown, to say the least. Instead, we spend, eat, and party a lot as though in celebration of a king… but not really! All this is to simply ask the question, what significance is there in celebrating a day to remember Christ’s birth… if not for a king?
After all, the newborn was just one among the few designated as kings in Matthew’s narration of Jesus birth (Matthew 2:1-2): Herod was the king who ruled over Judah; and the Magi, who brought gifts, were also recognized as wise men or as kings. These kings of the earth were in search of the newborn king—the birth of one carrying deep longing and high expectations. Numerous prophecies claimed this king would bring restoration for the Jews from the tyranny of Roman government. But for the Jews, such a Messianic hope had become so politicized that the birth of a king in a manger seemed nothing less than a deplorable event.
Christ is to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10); as king mounted on a donkey (Zachariah 9:9). The countless references to the Messiah, the Savior, or King of Jews, escaped the minds of Jews; their interests were less spiritual as they were political, less eternal and more temporal. Yet it did not destroy the fact that the child born in a manger was the king here to stay—one with a kingdom that is established already and not yet. R. C. Sproul calls it the few grave mistakes of the church to think of the kingdom either as only futuristic or as over-realized. Christ’s authority today is over all heaven and earth, and he is given a name above all other names (Philippians 2:9). While death and Satan have been defeated on the cross, a complete destruction of the deceiver is for the future; until then believers must eagerly await the redemption of their bodies (Romans 8:23). Thus, the king in the manger reigns over a kingdom that is already and yet to be realized in its fullness.
What may not be quickly evident is the similar desperation to enthrone earthly kings and rulers unreservedly by Christians even today, relegating all hope in the supposed “king of kings” to mere clichés. Our political frenzy, possibly, reflects our eagerness for a restoration that is yet to happen. But a careful attention to what rule or which kingdom we give allegiance to may still need to be in order. It is not in a nation, a party or an individual, but in a king—one born in a manger, in the night, by the gifts, with the angels, and still being searched for. To him be all glory!