I'm not a loyal royals watcher, but I do confess to a bit of curiosity when the news tease is about William, Kate and baby George. I mean, they have it all: good looks, perfect smiles, money, the perfect life. Whatever they want, they have. Seems idyllic. I'm betting George has never known need is his entire, though short, life - and that isn't likely to change any time soon.
You know this is heading to another king, right? What a contrast, though. There were no 1000 count sheets comforting Mary's baby, just rough swaddling clothes with a straw mattress poking through. It was a borrowed bed - borrowed from the cows and donkeys.
After a lifetime of service and giving and loving and teaching, He is laid to rest in a borrowed tomb - dependent again on the kindness of a stranger. There was no state funeral - quite the opposite, actually. The burial was hurried and the most basic customs placed on hold in deference to the Sabbath. At least it was a new tomb. It could have been a paupers grave if Joseph of Arimathea hadn't stepped up.
William, Kate and George have everything they desire - everything that money can buy, at least. Jesus had nothing. Throughout His life He was dependent on the kindnesses of others. On the other hand, Jesus gave everything: His position, His lifetime, His life.
Sometimes it feels like life makes choices for us. It's not true, of course. At the very least, we chose how we will react what life presents. Sometimes we get to see how two different people react to the same situation - a psychological microcosm. Before Christ's birth, Zechariah and Elizabeth were just such a study in duality.
The angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah that his wife, well beyond childbearing years, would have a son. "Name him John." (Luke 1:13-17) Ever practical, Zechariah demanded proof - of God's messenger - as if a swelling belly would not have been enough. And for his doubt, the father-to-be was struck mute for the next nine months. Elizabeth, on the other hand, acknowledged and praised God for the babe. (Luke 1:23-25) She had the honor of naming her son - not Zechariah as tradition would have dictated, but John. And the pronouncement of the child's name loosed her husband's tongue again. (Isn't he glad she listened and obeyed?)
Thirty some years later, as Christ suffered on the cross, two others had a choice to make. Both were criminals. Both we receiving their just punishment. Each hung next to the Christ, all condemned to die the same horrible death. One joined the taunts of the crowd, "Save yourself and save us!" (Luke 23:39) The other acknowledged Jesus' innocence,
his own guilt and asked forgiveness. (Luke 23:40-41) Christ, ever the gentleman, even to death, gave each man according to his heart. And that made all the difference.
May we all be wise enough to ask for what we really need this Christmas -
In Luke 23:13-23, the crowd chose to release Barabbas rather than Jesus. They demanded the release of a hardened criminal rather then the author of the Universe - the King of the Jews. And in doing so, they condemned Jesus to death - not accidentally, but by design. It's easy to read the text and shake my head. It's harder to admit my complicity, but my cry is too often no different than the crowd's.
How many times have I demanded Barabbas over the Christ?
When I say "Happy Holidays"?
When "Jingle Bells" is sung with gusto and I hum "O Little Town of Bethlehem"?
When the 'right gift' gets more attention than the Advent Wreath?
When I take more pride in the perfectly wrapped gift than the swaddling clothes?
When the hustle of the season crowds out contemplation of the reason?
Thank you, God, that I do not get what I ask for - Barabbas.