Glorious anticlimax

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-10).

We’ve all felt the letdown. There is expectation, there is buildup, there is excitement, and then … it all falls flat. The climax we expected disappoints; or really, a quite unexpected anticlimax comes in its place, leaving us deflated and depressed.

God promised that He would send a Chosen One, the Deliverer of mankind. He would be a glorious ruler, born to the line of the great Jewish King David. And sure enough, just as prophecy foretold, the promised One was born in that same sleepy village rich with Davidic associations.

The angel came. The choir sang. And the shepherds heard, and believed, and went to see the royal Child. But though heaven shone bright with blinding light, though the curtain of heaven itself was momentarily pulled back, the “sign” would be rather subdued. The royal Child would be found wrapped in humble garments, laid in a feeding trough for animals! And why? His parents Mary and Joseph could not find a single room in the local inn.

This would strike us as anticlimactic indeed. The Son of God … a little child? The King of ages, lacking all the marks of His true nobility? The Venerable Bede put it well, the “newborn Saviour … would be found not clothed in Tyrian [royal] purple, but wrapped in poor swaddling clothes, not laying on gilded couches, but in a manger.”

There was great glory on the still, quiet evening. The very skies opened to let me see the armies of God. But the one of whom they sang came not to be served, but to serve. Jesus, the Promise One, came into this world not that all might honor Him, but that He might submit, obey, suffer, and above all, die. This King, this Lord of all, was born to die. To die for God’s enemies, that their sins might be atoned for, their dark guilt washed away by His divine blood.

And so the surprising sign, the astounding anticlimax. But the eye of faith can grasp the mystery! “He who was rich for our sake became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich.” Do you see it, friend?

Don’t pass by any longer. Come and see the King, the lowly babe, the heaven-sent Gift of all gifts. And rejoice!

[image source]

Author: westportexperiment

I am a minister serving Presbyterian Reformed Church of Rhode Island, with strong interest in the history, theory, and contemporary application of parochial church extension.

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