Christmas is the Incarnation of God’s upside-down kingdom. Mary understood that.
“. . . he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1: 51-53)
Undoubtedly, Mary’s understanding of the Messiah was within the context of a promise to Israel and the expectation of a political and military leader to free the Jewish people from the brutal, cruel rule of Herod. But the New Testament reveals a Messiah with a scope and reach far beyond the Jewish people of first-century Judea.
Jesus didn’t come to overthrow Roman rule and establish an earthly kingdom. He came to bring God’s Kingdom to earth – a kingdom that is open to the meek and poor in spirit, the merciful and mourning, the lowly and humble, the ones with childlike faith.
Jesus came to scatter the religiously proud, to bring down the powerful gatekeepers. He came to lift up the lowly, the outcasts, the ones pushed to the margins. Jesus came to fill the hungry with good things.
Jesus’ harshest words were for the self-righteous gatekeepers who took it upon themselves to decide who was in and who was out, who established the heavy burden of arduous rules. Jesus brought the good news of an easy yoke and light load, abundant life and freedom in his fullness.
Do we stand as pharisaical gatekeepers weighing ourselves and others down with a heavy burden? Do we see ourselves as gold-star rule-keepers grasping for some power to establish our rules and guidelines for everyone else?
Or do we identify with the meek and lowly? The hungry? The poor in spirit?
Are we looking for ways to participate in the work of Jesus – throwing open the gates, lifting up the lowly, drawing in the outcasts? Do we proclaim good news to those with hearts hungry for love?
I used to be a gatekeeper. But that was exhausting, life-sucking work. Now, I choose to embrace the abundant life Jesus offers. And I fling wide open the gates, proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ love and life to anyone who will listen.
If you’re hungry for love, for life, for more — let me tell you, Jesus is the Real Deal. His kingdom is for you, especially if you’ve felt pushed out and pushed down. Jesus teaches us to live freely and abundantly. If you’re burned out on religion and rules, Jesus offers real rest and grace.
And I don’t know about you, but I need some real rest and grace.