When I was a child one of my favourite things to do was to help plant trees, flowers and assorted growing things in the garden. This involved a lot of digging. You needed to prepare the ground ready to plant. The correct tools were essential. Finding the right place to start digging was another key factor (at age 5 I always had guidance). Digging was sometimes hard work, it was often messy but it was always rewarding.
The milieu of commercialism and familiarity means that we often miss the details of advent. So it is worth digging in and unearthing some of the big things which go missing in our understanding of the advent of Jesus. So where do we begin? Obviously this cannot be major excavation. But we can look at some of the main points of the theme of kingship and royalty which are woven all through the Advent narrative.
The Royal Connection in the garden
Lets start by noticing that Luke makes an interesting connection. When he writes his genealogy of Jesus Luke finishes up by relating him to Adam, the first man (Luke 3:30) Why would he do this?
As the first man Adam was given great authority by God to protect, grow develop and expand the garden which he was to tend (Gen 1:28-30). His role was one of authority on behalf of God to enact the will of God throughout all of his creation. Effectively he was the viceroy of God putting into practice the good order which God had made and overseeing its expansion. This is one of the ways to view Adam; a man with royal connections who rebels against the kings authority.
So Luke is keen to show us that Jesus had connections to that event. Unlike the first man this God/man would not rebel against the kings righteous rule. Instead he would be submissive to it, for the good of creation and the glory of his father.
The Royal Connection in Bethlehem
We see another clear connection with royal heritage. Jesus is born in the city of the most famous king of Israel. The gospel writers are very clear that Jesus is born in the city of David (Luke 2:4).
Bethlehem would be changed forever with the anointing of David as God’s chosen king over his people (1 Sam 16:1-5, 11-13). He would be remembered as the best, the marker of what a king should really be like. But even he was filled with flaws and failings; remember Bathsheba (2 Sam 11-12).
However this is not the beginning of Bethlehem’s connection to the theme of kingship and royalty. We are given advanced warning that there is someone that will come from the house of Judah, one of the sons of Jacob. As Jacob is about to die he blesses his sons and what he says to Judah is striking (Gen 49:10). He states that from this specific line there will come a king who will have lasting authority and the obedience of nations.
Now lets look again at what Luke has told us about Joseph’s home town. It is the city of David, in the land of Judea (Luke 2:4).
What we see is that the sovereign God uses the desires of a pagan emperor to exert more control over his subjects as the vehicle which fulfills his promise. Is that not wonderful to see! God is not caught out by the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem. He accounted for it all along.
The Royal Connection with the nations
Now this is an aspect which is sadly, and all too often, over looked in the narrative of Christmas. The eager expectation of the ages was for a king that would rule over all of creation, over every nation.
All you need to do is read through Isaiah and this will become strikingly self evident. Think about the son that is to be give that would be the prince of peace, who’s government would never cease (Isa 9:6-7) or the signal to the nations for them to gather before God (Isa 11:10-12). What about the nations self confession that the Lord is God of the earth (45:14-25).
But the reason that I bring this up is because we see this theme of the king for all nations played out in the Christmas story. As we hear the angels communicating their message of great joy we are told it is for all people, all nations (Luke 2:10). Zechariah, the man of faith also affirms this great truth about the universal nature of this king. This child is the light for revelation to the nations (Luke 2:29-32).
And we see this already beginning with Jesus birth. Kings from the East come to pay tribute to him as they followed the light which brought them to him. As they approached the king they were filled with joyful expectation (Matt 2:10) and they not only give him gifts; they worship him (Matt 2:11). People from outside of the promise of God were coming to him, recognising in him the hope of every nation on earth.
Digging leads to praise
I hope this has been helpful for you as I have enjoyed digging into to seeing where the roots of God’s king lie. It leads me to praise, and the Getty/Townend song seems the best way to respond
“Son of Adam, Son of heaven given as a ransom. Reconciling God and man, Christ our mighty champion! What a saviour what a friend, what a glorious mystery. Once a babe in Bethlehem, now the lord of history.”