Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Diadem of the World

Christmas has been mightily confused with Saturnalia, the winter Roman revel and gift giving ceremony of ancient Rome on 23 December in honour of Saturn. Saturnalia influenced the early Roman Catholic Church whose first priests were Roman aristocrats who had to attract the people from pagan worship to the Roman church.

During Advent, in early December, Christians have to focus on the birth of Christ, to extract from Christmas, as we would a nut from a shell, its spiritual meaning. One clue is Advent, which has exactly the right sense of expectation. This reminds us that Christmas is based on fulfilled Middle Eastern prophecies.

Christmas marks the coming of the long awaited One. There are literally hundreds of prophetic texts throughout the Old Testament predicting the coming of the “anointed One”. This figure would usher into a ruthless world, an eternal kingdom of mercy and compassion for the outcast, hope, truth, justice and governance, all to the benefit of the dispersed people of God.For centuries, a small Middle Eastern people, the Jews had been crushed between the ruthless pagan regimes of Egypt, Babylon, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans. The Jews were sustained by their holy writings which they interpreted as speaking about a human figure, known as “Messiah”, who would emerge and then lead them as a self determining nation. Sadly, their religious teachers had selectively read hundreds of prophecies, picking the ones that seemed viable in a human sense, in a cruel material world. Their Messiah would be a glorious military figure, not a humble man of incomparable moral stature and miraculous powers. Their scholars omitted the “suffering servant” Messianic texts. Instead, they probably envisaged Messiah like Alexander the Great, with a glorious earthly dominion.

Thus, when a comprehensive Messiah arrived, in fulfilment of all the ancient texts, the powerful religious teachers did not recognise Him. This would be the stuff of Greek tragedy if malicious hatred, jealousy and sin were not so closely involved in His rejection and death. This mistake cost the Jews their historic, central role in the ongoing plan of God and that role now passed to the Gentiles. That new direction in history began in a stable in Bethlehem, at the first Christmas.

If the Messiah had not come accompanied by astrologers, shepherds, a bright star and the murder of His fellow infants, our lives today would be so radically different that we would scarcely recognise them. There would be no Advent, to consider how God is utterly true to His Word and how His plans exceeded all human expectations. For just as Isaiah had predicted in Chapter 62.3, the true Messiah, Jesus is indeed the diadem of the world. “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God”. A diadem is the jewel in the crown, like the huge “Koh i Noor” diamond in the British Royal Crown.

At Christmas, we are celebrating the God of Truth and His Word which, in Christ, has a mighty track record of verification. Here is just one of the many prophecies that are fulfilled by the coming of Jesus Christ.

2 Samuel 7:16. God says to David through the prophet Nathan
“Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”

Luke 3:31. The genealogy of Jesus, through Joseph and similarly through Mary, who must have been related to Joseph as a descendant of the bloodline of King David 
“The son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David”.

Rev. 22:16 The Risen Jesus says to the churches 
“I am the root and Offspring of David, the bright and Morning Star”.

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