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  • Writer's pictureGrace Church Wakefield

Christmas and our deepest desires




Psalm 72, written about a thousand years before the first Christmas, shows us that in Jesus the deepest desires of our hearts can be met.


Desire of nations

There's a verse of the carol 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' where Jesus is referred to as “the desire of nations”


Really, you say? Jesus desire of the nations? It’s not like many people in Wakefield are all that bothered. Rest of country are the same. Have you seen census results?


And that's the UK. What about all the other nations who don't even have a Christmas festival at all? Isn't it presumptuous to say Jesus is is the 'Desire of the nations'?



But it’s not that people necessarily want Jesus


The claim of Christianity is that Jesus can give you what you want. He's the desire of the nations without the nations knowing it.


And what Psalm 72 is saying specifically is that he is the King who can give you what you really want if you submit to him.


A national anthem

We can look ahead to an extra bank holiday in 2022 for King Charles' coronation.


Psalm 72 is a Psalm used for a coronation. It may be that King David of Israel wrote it ready for the coronation of his son Solomon (v 1).


It also acts like a national anthem, rather like our "God save the King":


V 15 Long may he live! (we sing "long live our noble King")

V 4 end “may he crush the oppressor” (we sing "send him victorious")


A king of kings

At Christmas we get caught up in the sentimentality and the emotion and the seemingly cute story of the birth of baby Jesus.


But all the aspects to it have a meaning, and it’s the meaning that’s important.


Do you remember the Magi coming to visit Jesus? Wise men from the east, perhaps Persia, far far away from Bethlehem in Judah. And like at the Queen's funeral, or the King’s coronation in June, royalty came to visit the new king, Jesus.


Tradition suggests that the Magi were rulers ("We Three Kings of Orient Are"). The Magi are meant to tell us that he is a wise ruler for all the nations. Even at his birth he's a king over all kings, a wise ruler over wise rulers:


8 May he rule from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

9 May the desert tribes bow before him

and his enemies lick the dust.

10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores

bring tribute to him.

May the kings of Sheba and Seba

present him with gifts.

11 May all kings bow down to him

and all nations serve him.



What does this King Jesus offer?

People have started to look back at Queen Elizabeth's reign and tried to summarise what her reign was like - how we enjoyed peace and prosperity largely under her.


What about Jesus? Psalm 72 tells us what his reign will be like:


Justice

He will be perfectly just and fair. Verse 2 says May he judge your people in righteousness,

your afflicted ones with justice.


We long for justice. Workers in the Qatari stadiums. Hillsborough. The Moors Murderers. Dodgy politicians and shady businessmen. We long for someone who can sort it all out - this king Jesus, Christianity claims, can.


We long for justice. Workers in the Qatari stadiums. Hillsborough. The Moors Murderers. Dodgy politicians and shady businessmen. We long for someone who can sort it all out - this king Jesus, Christianity claims, can.

Protection

Verses 12-14 tell us that under Jesus' ruler the poorest and the weakest are protected and cared for:

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,

the afflicted who have no one to help.

13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy

and save the needy from death.

14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,

for precious is their blood in his sight.


This again is what we desire. When Liz Truss' short-lived government announced huge tax cuts for the richest, there was an out cry that led to her downfall.


When abuse in care homes uncovered there is disgust.


Grenfell and tragic stories of little boys in damp housing - we long for the poorest to be protected. For those stories to be no more.


A world that works

And on a more general level we long for a world where life just works.

This is pictured in the Psalms image of a world where there’s plenty of food:


16 May corn abound throughout the land;

on the tops of the hills may it sway.

May the crops flourish like Lebanon

and thrive like the grass of the field.


The meaning of this is largely lost on us, who can walk into Morrisons and leave with a trolley of fresh food. With modern machinery and farming methods we’ve worked out how to to generate fields full of crops. If you go into the countryside in the summer you'll see the fields full.


But in the time this Psalm was written farming was done without chemicals and without machines. And so to imagine fields full - waving with corn - oh wow! Your barns were going to be full that year, and the next. Your children will eat. And the point is that is how it was supposed to be. This is life that just works. And that's what we long for. Not necessarily great riches. But a life that just works. And Christianity is saying under Jesus, this can happen.



What is this to do with Christmas?

Christianity is saying that those human desires - the desire of the nations - for justice, for fairness, for protection and safety and security, for provision, for joy, for contentment and happiness - the perfect world - will be delivered by a King, and his name is Jesus.


The world was created in the way we have just described, the Bible says, but we lost it because we have all rebelled against God. We want God out of the picture. For example, most people don't really want Jesus anywhere near Christmas!


But God has sent at Christmas a King who really can deliver what we want.


Why isn't the world perfect then, if Jesus is this great King?

But, you say, the poor still suffer. People still starve. Little boys die in damp housing. The richer get richer. The food banks are still open. Justice isn't done. How can you say Jesus the King can give us these things?


It's a good question.


A perfect future world

First thing to say is that Christianity says that Jesus isn't done with this world yet. He will return and bring with him a literally perfect world.


In response you might say 'that's crazy!'


And yet, when he walked on earth two thousand years ago, as he went around Galilee, he helped the sick, he defended the outsider and the poor, he fed the hungry, he removed evil. His life on earth was a foretaste of what is to come. For a brief period of time, we saw the desire of nations.


But he was snubbed out after just three years of life when he was killed on a cross.


But here's the thing: he had to die. For the very reason why we can't have a perfect world is because of our rebellion against God. A rebellion that deserves a judgement. A rebellion that has ruined everything. That's what Christmas is so necessary - God has come to save us for the penalty of our sin and all the mess and pain it has caused.


And just as he came once, and paid for our sin in his death and rose again, he will come again and bring a perfect world. To bring the desire of nations.


But it's not all future.


Jesus' reign over our lives today

Today for Christians, his rule over our lives now brings us peace (because you know that he sees all injustice and will right every wrong you experience) contentment (because in Christ you have a relationship with God himself which makes you richer than any Russian oil billionaire) and incredible security (because you know you can never ever be separated form his love).

Today for Christians his rule over our lives brings us peace... contentment ... and incredible security.

Jesus really is the desire of nations.


And in a very real sense you can have those desires met now - millions around the world have - and then when he returns you will have them completely.


But you have to come to him and actually make him your king. He won't force himself on anyone. He's come down for you - indeed, he's done everything for you - now you need to come to him. Will you come to him?



This is taken from a short message given at our church service on 18th December 2022 by Ian Goodson.





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