Christmas and the crowds
Christmas is popular with the crowds; it’s a public holiday and a prolonged season full of festivities. Many who seldom attend churches now join in religious festivals and worship services. Musical and ministerial performances make much of the miracle of Christmas: the baby Jesus, God’s son; the mother Mary, a tender virgin; God’s gifts, salvation and peace for all who believe.
Jesus’ miracles were also popular with the crowds of his day: he healed all kinds of diseases, cast out demons, and fed hungry multitudes. These crowds believed in this miracle worker–and hoped he would do even greater miracles for their nation and world. But Jesus did not trust the excitement of the crowds; his miracles were signs of something greater than they imagined; their imaginations were locked in on personal, family, and national longings.
Jesus’ miracles were signs of his new kingdom; but most did not have eyes to see the mystery (secret) of this powerful and merciful king and kingdom from heaven. For this king was not a Santa Claus giving people all the desires of their heart; and his kingdom was not a national multitude of believers in him. This king from heaven started a new international kingdom of disciples who would faithfully follow him and his lowly, difficult way through the power of his Spirit from heaven.
Unlike the Christmas spirit that inspires crowds to show a little mercy to the needy this one time, Jesus’ Spirit empowers disciples to show generous help to the poor regularly. And unlike the sentimental religious performances that impress–and inspire the hopes and dreams of all the years, this new king and his disciples speak the truth about human pride and power and performance, calling people to follow a poor king who was persecuted by the powers that be. True disciples recognize the greed and pride of the crowds; true disciples see beyond the adorable baby, the awesome miracle, and the religious sentiment; they see the demanding king, whose way is hard; those who find it are few.