The Hidden Aspect of the Nativity: The Kingdom of God
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
Our meditations regarding the birth of Christ have, as a matter of habit, focused on what took place visibly in history, for the Word became flesh and we beheld His glory. Life was manifested, and we saw it with our eyes and touched it with our hands. God appeared in the flesh.
The shepherds received a sign from Heaven and left to go and see the wonder in the cave: a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, declared to be the One who would save His people from their sins. The Magi came too, travelling a great distance, guided by a heavenly star that was moved by power from on high, so that the testimony to the Savior of the world should come from outside Israel, at a time when the leaders and Jewish teachers failed to discern and proclaim their Savior.
The Hidden Aspect of the Nativity of Christ
Salvation and an Everlasting Kingdom:
But now we will consider what took place invisibly on the day Christ was born. It has been overwhelmingly demonstrated on the stage of history and time, as well as in the hearts of the Apostles, the saints and the entire Church, that He who was born is indeed the coming King, the Savior, the Redeemer, the Bearer of the key to the house of David, that when He closes it, no one can open it, and when He opens it, no one can close it. This is an everlasting Kingdom that will never pass away, according to the vision of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 6:26).
This is the other aspect of the birth of Christ, for in Christ was fulfilled God's promise of the beginning of the age of salvation, and the manifestation on earth of the Kingdom of God, guided and governed by Him; this was the Kingdom spoken of tirelessly by the prophets. The hosts of heaven declared salvation: "There is born to you this day a Savior," and the Magi declared the everlasting Kingdom: "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him." (Matt. 2:2).
So we can behold the hidden face of the day of the Nativity: thrones were destroyed and others set up; one age ended and another began, as the Virgin Mary said in her immortal song of praise: "He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly... He has shown strength with His arm." (Lk. 1:52, 51). At the annunciation, the angel also declared clearly and gloriously, "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there will be no end." (Lk. 1:32, 33).
How amazing that the saving Kingdom of Christ should be proclaimed while He was still in the womb, and confirmed in many ways, first by the angel, then by the Virgin at the beginning of her pregnancy, and then by Zechariah the priest and Elizabeth. And on the day of His birth, it was reconfirmed by the heavenly hosts and the Magi, who bore the hardships of their long journey so that they might see the King of the Jews and worship Him, and present gifts expressing the essence of their faith in His Kingdom.
Christ's Constant Emphasis on the Reality of the Kingdom
then the other aspect of the birth of the Christchild, swaddled and lying in a
manger, is this Kingdom, proclaimed from Heaven, and by angels and rulers; the
Kingdom that Christ was born to establish and rule for man. For Christ was born
with the key to the house of David upon His shoulder, according to the words of
the angel to the Virgin, "And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of
his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His
kingdom there will be no end." (Lk. 1:32-33).
We must focus our attention on this other aspect, for it is the essence of the meaning of the Nativity. If we read carefully we find that it is this other aspect that dominates the Gospel and the whole of Scripture. Christ Himself in His sayings and parables concentrated on nothing in the way He concentrated on the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God was even the subject with which His ministry began. "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Mt 4:17). And if we recall the events recorded in the Gospel we find that in Christ's final teachings, after the resurrection, during the forty days when He was appearing to His disciples, He spoke with them of the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
You remember, too, the parables of Christ concerning the Kingdom that are found throughout the Gospel, in which the Lord tried to explain and describe the inexplicable and indescribable Kingdom of God by using all kinds of illustrations. The Lord's concern to present these many and various parables of the Kingdom shows the great significance of the concept of the Kingdom as Christ saw it. No single parable could describe the Kingdom of God, and even all the parables together were insufficient. Otherwise Christ would not have needed to spend forty days, in the fullness of His resurrection and transfiguration, explaining again the things of the Kingdom of God after He had already taught about the Kingdom constantly for three-and-a-half years, both explicitly and in parables.
The Kingdom of God, after all that has been said in the Gospel and all explanations, remains ever new and awaiting fulfillment. When all our words and all their meanings come to an end, the fact of the Kingdom remains unchanged. It is a life that cannot be described but needs to be lived. This is why, however much we talk about the Kingdom, we find that words fail, and the Kingdom remains something needed by the soul much more than it is needed by the mind or the imagination.
Credit and Attribution
Father Matthew the Poor is the late Spiritual Father of the Monastery of St. Macarius, Wadi el-Natroun, Egypt. This article was originally published by the St. Mark Monthly Review, a journal published by the monastery, and is reprinted here with express permission from both Fr. Matthew the Poor and St. Mark's Monthly Review.
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