Do Not Ignore the Heavenly King
IT APPEARS that while Jesus was on earth as a man, he never drew attention to his early childhood. On one occasion while he was preaching, a woman in the crowd cried: “Happy is the womb that carried you and the breasts that you sucked!” But Jesus countered: “No, rather, Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!” (Luke 11:27, 28) He did not encourage people to speak sentimentally about his birth or Mary’s role in it.
It is noteworthy that the Bible does not give us the date of Jesus’ birth, and Jesus nowhere commanded us to celebrate his birthday. Moreover, during the first centuries after Jesus’ death, there is no record of Christians ever celebrating Christmas.
In view of this—and in view of the numerous pagan customs associated with Christmas—many today do not join in the celebration. They prefer to show their respect for Jesus in other ways. To them, Jesus is no longer a babe in a manger. He has grown up to become something much greater.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS
During the celebration of Christmas, certain passages from the Bible are often read at religious services, and, hence, have become quite well known. Consider some of these passages as they appear in a modern translation of the Bible, and see what they say about how we should view Jesus today.
One scripture tells us how Mary first learned she was going to be the mother of Jesus. The angel Gabriel appeared and announced: “Look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus.” This event is very famous. Yet, have you ever noticed the angel’s next words concerning Jesus? “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.”—Luke 1:31-33.
Yes, the angel Gabriel showed that there was much more than the birth of a baby involved here. Mary’s child would become great. He would be the royal heir of King David and would rule as a king forever.
When Jesus was born, another well-known event took place. An angel appeared to shepherds who were watching their flocks in a field and said: “Look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have, because there was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David’s city. And this is a sign for you: you will find an infant bound in cloth bands and lying in a manger.” Then a multitude of other angels joined this first one, praising God and saying: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Luke 2:8-14.
The angel told the shepherds that Jesus would be lying in a manger—this was a sign for them, to help them to identify the infant in question. But what part of that message do you think thrilled the shepherds most? Surely, the news that here at last was the promised Savior, the one who would certainly become Christ. Here was born the one who, when he grew up, would bring peace on earth among men of goodwill.
Another scripture often used in Christmas services in the churches of Christendom is found in Isaiah chapter nine. There the words are recorded: “For there has been a child born to us, there has been a son given to us; and the princely rule will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”—Isa. 9:6.
There has been some impressive music written to accompany these words, and this can usually be heard around the time of Christmas. Yet how many really listen to the words that come after “there has been a child born to us”? Jesus is here given some weighty and meaningful titles. And Isa 9 verse 7 describes him as the one who brings blessings without end by his Kingdom rule. Is this not the way we should think of him today?
WHAT JESUS IS NOW
When a person celebrates his birthday, he customarily receives presents and congratulations on being a year older. How would he feel if, every time his birthday came around, his mother insisted on bringing out snapshots showing what he was like when he was a baby? People like to be recognized for what they are now, not just for what they were as infants.
It is rather similar concerning life and death. People hope to be remembered for what they accomplished in life, not for what they looked like in their last moments. Hence, when a statue is erected in honor of a famous man, it usually shows him standing upright and strong, or engaged in some activity for which he was famous, not suffering in his death agonies.
In view of this, it is interesting how Jesus is usually envisioned by most people. At Christmas he is represented as a helpless babe in a manger. The rest of the year he is most often shown as a man dying in agony. Is this a balanced representation?
True, with regard to these two occasions Jesus showed wonderful humility. First, he gave up his glorious position in heaven. He “emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men.” As a human, “he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”—Phil. 2:7, 8.
We should be fully aware of these sacrifices that Jesus made, because they are examples for us of deep humility. (Phil. 2:5, 6) Also, each of these experiences was essential for Jesus to fulfill his Father’s will and to offer his human life for the salvation of the human race. In this way he could become our “Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
But Jesus’ experience did not stop there. He is not now lying helpless as a babe in a manger. Nor is he dead on a torture stake. After his death, God raised him to life and “exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend.”—Phil. 2:9, 10.
Jesus himself said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matt. 28:18) He is now God’s anointed king, ruling in heaven in the now-established kingdom. He has already experienced the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy: “To him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”—Dan. 7:14.
THE NEED FOR GOD’S KINGDOM
While on earth, Jesus made this kingdom the theme of his preaching, saying: “Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 4:17) He taught his followers to pray for that kingdom, and in so doing emphasized its importance. He said: “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.’” (Matt. 6:9, 10) He thus showed that God’s will is going to be accomplished by means of this kingdom, over which Jesus is now the appointed king.
What is God’s will? It is for Jesus to be the “Prince of Peace.” Hence, God will be “making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” (Ps. 46:9) On the basis of Jesus’ death, God’s purpose is to save mankind from sin and death and give us the opportunity to live forever. Hence, Jesus becomes our “Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The benefits of this saving activity will come to mankind through the Kingdom.
For those who accept the opportunity, the future under Christ’s kingship will be full of blessings. No more sickness, no more death, a resurrection of our lost loved ones and spiritual and physical prosperity are all promised to faithful mankind under Jesus, who, as Gabriel said to Mary, “will rule as king . . . forever.”—Rev. 21:4; John 5:28, 29; Luke 1:33.
But how will this be possible, since the earth is ruled now by human governments that are extremely jealous of their sovereignty? The Bible pictures Jesus not only as a prince of peace but also as a conquering king who removes from before him all the obstacles to mankind’s eternal happiness. Rulers are warned to accept his kingship. (Ps. 2:10-12) For those that ignore his rulership, the Bible says: “In the days of those kings [present political rulers] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” Thus Jesus will become world ruler.—Dan. 2:44.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
When Jesus grew up from babyhood and became a man, he showed qualities that make us warm to him as a person. He had compassion for the oppressed, and he pitied the sick and tried to help them. (Matt. 14:14) He loved children, and children were drawn to him. (Matt. 19:13-15) He loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. (Heb. 1:9) Moreover, he deeply loved his disciples “to the end.”—John 13:1.
Does he still have these qualities, now that he is a heavenly king? Certainly he does. These qualities, demonstrated while he was a man on earth, make him the ideal ruler for the human race.
Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus’ birth was announced and the angels in heaven expressed great joy. But that little babe has grown up! We cannot ignore the fact that he is now “King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords.” (1 Tim. 6:15) So, not as a babe but as a ruling king, he will bring about “upon earth peace among men of goodwill,” as many of us so earnestly desire.
Why not examine the Bible yourself and come to know Jesus as he really is, God’s now-reigning king? Why not study to find out how you, too, can be numbered among those “men of goodwill” who will experience the ‘peace on earth’ that God promised almost 2,000 years ago? And do not forget that Jesus himself has extended this personal invitation to you: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) Can you wisely ignore this kind invitation from such a king?
[Picture on page 5]
Mary heard that Jesus would “rule as king . . . forever”
[Picture on page 6]
Isaiah was told that Jesus would be a Prince of Peace
[Picture on page 7]
Many today recognize Jesus as the now-reigning King