"...the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:30-33)
In a culture that flattens the remembrance of Christ’s birth to the horizontal world of human activity alone, we are reminded by St. Luke that the first Christmas had an other-worldly vertical dimension, God came down from his realm to us. Let this heavenly idea linger for a moment, and then the means by which God came to us becomes all the more striking – the infinite, limitless, and all-powerful God of majesty came down to us as an infant, birthed through a human mother.
All parents have hopeful aspirations for their children’s future, and Jewish mothers were no exception, but what must Mary have thought – Son of the Most High, the throne of David, reign forever, his kingdom will never end? It wasn’t her idea, but there it was, cascading down from heaven on the words of the angel’s announcement. But if it wasn’t her idea, then whose idea was it? To answer this question, we go back almost 1,000 years before Mary to another announcement, this one made by the prophet Nathan to David the king of Israel.
The Old Testament book of 2 Samuel, chapter 7, tells us of Nathan’s stunning prophecy. After David had consulted with the prophet about building a “house” (a temple) for God, Nathan delivered to David God’s personal promise that he would build a “house” (a dynasty) for David.
“‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you... I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom... Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:11-12, 16,)
What was hinted at in Nathan’s prophecy – that a forever throne needs a forever King – was then made clear to Mary as her child was described by the angel as Son of the Most High. The God-Man King we call Jesus Christ is the perfect explanation to a Biblical paradox: a king from David’s human offspring who is also the Son of the Most High God. Yet more than a paradox, this is the King we need! The Christmas King is the Son-of-God-King who stands as a forever reminder that as God, he is powerfully and eternally for us. Yet, this same King, who is also from David’s human offspring, is our human Brother. He understands our human troubles and was able to take our place on the cross to deliver an infinite salvation for each of us mortals as our substitute.
Mary’s child and God’s Son, he is THE unique King where heaven and earth meet; He is where we find the gift of belonging to the kingdom that will never end. To God be the glory!