“Since the birth of Jesus, heaven has been invading the time of tyrant kings.” – Brian Zahnd
I bet you didn’t realize that Christmas actually just ended on Sunday.
You’ve probably heard of the 12 days of Christmas, haven’t you? No? If you haven’t received a partridge in a pear tree in your life, you haven’t LIVED.
Anyway, the Christian church recently celebrated the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th. This holy day that ends the Advent season is all about the coming of the wise men to the Christ child.
We’ve all heard about the wise men from Matthew’s gospel (2:1-3):
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;”
I love author and pastor Brian Zahnd‘s take on this story. He delivered a sermon for this year’s Epiphany specifically focused on that first phrase:
“In the time of King Herod…”
According to Zahnd, we’ve always lived “in the time of INSERT_TYRANT_NAME_HERE.” And he is right. But he also argues that the coming of Jesus did change and should change that.
Christmas is the story of a kid born up against the global backdrop of a world-conquering Roman empire and within the domain of a puppet king named Herod the Great. This nobody kid preached that a kingdom of God has come into this world. That kingdom is the opposite of every kingdom and tyranny that has ever existed – a kingdom with an anti-king, that replaces killing with creation and fear with love.
The story of Epiphany is the story of the first tyrant to realize that his time is short. The Magi were a wakeup call for Herod, but he still failed to nip the Christmas revolution in the bud.
Jesus inspired a cultural transformation which eventually led to the end of the Roman Empire (at least, the end as of the empire as they knew it). That’s one revolution which most people don’t notice, probably because it happened peacefully.
Really intriguing stuff. If you’re fascinated by the mythology of Christmas, love 1st century social/political history, or find the message and life of Jesus compelling, you’ll like this short sermon. If you think love does conquer tyranny in the end, this will really get you going.
Listen to the full sermon here: