Sometimes we judge a gift by its wrapping. We assume that the better present is in the more impressive presentation. Bigger, more eye-catching, more powerful, more intangible. We are so tempted to want those immediately impressive things. And as a result, we often overlook the truly good gift. But isn’t it true, that so often the most precious gift comes in the most fragile, unexpected wrapping?
2000 years ago, the Romans would honor their emperor or their military hero with something called a ‘Triumph.’ This was a grand pageant, a massive parade to impress the public with the majesty and power and success of their ruler who was entering into their city. The Triumph was incredibly built-up with grandeur and frills and sounds and eye-catching splendor. As the iconic king entered the city, captured enemy leaders and soldiers were forced through the streets to be mocked and jeered and spit on. Next, the spoils of war were paraded before the masses of people… gold, silver, statues, livestock, slaves, weapons, musicians, dancers. Finally, the coming king would enter in power at the head of his army, which marched in obedient unison behind him. The ruler was called the ‘Triumphator,’ and had his arms and face painted red, displaying his mastery of warfare. He came in riding an ornate four-wheeled chariot drawn by two majestic white horses. The parade reached a fever pitch when it culminated at the foot of the Temple of Jupiter, where the Triumphator would be lauded with praise.
Jesus could have come to this earth in all of his glory. He could have made these Roman Triumphs look quite trivial. The psalms talk about him being robed in majesty and armed with strength. Psalm 104 says that “he is clothed in splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment.” The Bible gives him some awe-inspiring titles that attempt to give us a picture of who he is- like wonderful counselor, almighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace. The Creator of all things. The Way, the Truth, the Life. He is the Lion of Judah. He is the exact radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. The writer of the book of revelation tries to describe his splendor said that “his eyes were like blazing fire, his feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” So clearly, if he had wanted to, Jesus could have come to this earth in quite an impressive manner.
This is the shocking Triumph of Jesus Christ, the ruler and sustainer of the universe: While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for the baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger." (Luke 2:6-7)
(This is part 1 of 2. Part 2 is tomorrow.)