In many ways, Christ’s birth was unexpected. Even though it had been foretold for thousands of years, the Jews were not prepared for the birth of the Messiah. Anticipation for Christ’s birth had become distorted with earthly ideas of what His kingdom might look like. The Jews expected a triumphant conqueror who would overthrow the Romans. They longed for the day when Israel would regain the earthly strength it once had under David and Solomon. The Jew’s longing for the Messiah had become a desire for something that God had not promised.
The Jewish people should have been aware of what Christ’s ministry and life would look like. Isaiah the prophet clearly speaks about the nature of Christ:
“For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
Isaiah’s description does not fit what we would naturally think about an earthly king, let alone a heavenly one. Rejected and scorned by men, really? Why couldn’t the Messiah be attractive? Why couldn’t He be majestic? Why couldn’tHe be strong and cause all those who looked upon Him to admire or fear?
Of course, Christ is all these things, but you have to have the right perspective in order to see them as such. The Jews wanted an earthly king ruling an earthly nation by military power. They wanted liberation from Rome. They wanted to be exulted alongside their long-foretold King. They wanted to relive the glory days of Israel when David was king. Given their earthly perspective, imagine their disappointment when the Messiah came just as Isaiah prophesied.
Like the Jews of Jesus’ day, there is a sinful gravitational pull inside each one of us toward that which is earthly. The Apostle Paul says that the flesh wages war with the Spirit. Acknowledging this, how will we celebrate with an eternal perspective today? How will we ensure that we don’t settle for or become distracted by a lesser glory than what Jesus intended?