An Unexpected King – A Christmas Eve Reflection on Jesus, Empire, & the Poor

Below I offer a brief Advent devotional for this Christmas Eve. This was published in Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary’s Advent Devotional.

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“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news… Today in the town of David a Savior has been born… Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2.10-11

When I proposed to my wife, I wanted her to be shocked. I made comments to throw her off about the timing of our eventual marriage. I had friends who helped me keep it a secret, all part of a master plan. When she least expected it, from inside the basket of a hot air balloon, I said the unexpected words, “Will you marry me?”

Have you ever experienced unexpected news? To imagine, let alone announce, Jesus as King was shocking and unexpected news in first-century Palestine. Luke 2:1 identifies Caesar Augustus (his name means “worthy of worship”) as emperor. Caesar was the sort of king the world expected. After defeating Rome’s enemies and thus bringing “peace” (pax romana), Caesar was called the “savior” and “Lord” whose birth was “good news.” As a result, a cult of emperor worship was created as Augustus willingly took on divine titles such as “son of god.” He used his cult to manipulate people into giving him allegiance, even though his brutal policies led to excessive poverty.

In the corner of Caesar’s empire an unexpected King is born! Everything that Augustus claimed about himself (“good news,” “savior,” “Lord,” and “peace”) the angel proclaimed about Jesus, the true “son of God!” Augustus claimed what only God in the flesh could actualize. Jesus, coming as a humble baby to impoverished parents, truly was an unexpected King. May we experience Christ anew and never give in to the temptation to put anyone on the throne of our lives but him!

Lord, help us reveal the unexpected love of King Jesus to our neighbors, city, and world. Guide us by the Spirit to bring God’s unexpected “good news” to the poor.

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