For us who call Jesus Lord, the perennial challenge of Christmastime is to unearth the profound mystery of the incarnation–God become flesh–from the heap of plastic, lights, music, and events under which it is buried. This year God has introduced me to a new backhoe that can dig through the consumeristic pile: the Sermon on the Mount, captured in Matthew 5-7.
The first four chapters of Matthew’s gospel unravel one grand theme: Jesus is the king, the promised Messiah from David’s line that will rule over his people forever. This is not a mere theological puzzle for us to fit together and then sit back to admire. This is a history-altering reality that separates the world into two categories: those who live under this king and those who do not. Thus Jesus’ initial and ongoing message is “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
This call to repentance is fleshed out in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus teaches us what it looks like to live in the kingdom of heaven, that is, to have him as our king. It begins with acknowledging our own lack of spiritual capital, mourning over our sin, and coming to Jesus the king in humble repentance (Matthew 5:3-5). It involves living in such a depth of love for others that we do not even allow hate or lust toward them to remain in our hearts. It calls us to live with such a God-awareness that his reward is all the motivation we need to walk in just paths of generosity, prayer, and relinquishment. And Jesus’ call to this life is so authoritative that to embrace his gracious rule is to build our lives on a rock, but to ignore his teaching is to build our lives on unstable sand that will lead to our destruction.
Embracing Jesus as my king has reinvigorated my love for this season, because as I dig through the pile of lights and glitter, of shiny gizmos and new toys, my own heart is challenged with what I treasure. Do I worship the stuff I can get or the king who created the matter from which the stuff is made? Such is the mystery of the incarnation: this king entered our world as the baby of a peasant girl, and that baby grew up to become the king around which I order my life. So when I look at the plastic baby surrounded by lights and inflatable Santas in a desert landscaped front yard, I think, “this is the baby that rules my life.” And that is something to behold.
O come let us adore him,