I have been watching The Crown on Netflix lately. Though I had already watched the first three seasons, I needed a refresher because I didn’t remember a whole lot!
While watching this time, I noticed something I missed before: the intentional inaccessibility of the royals to the ‘common people.’
With the anointing by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the king/queen was transformed. No longer merely human the regent was now also divine – the bridge between God and humanity; set apart from mere mortals, no longer accessible to those they ruled.
When progressive members of both family and Parliament suggested bringing a sense of transparency and accessibility to royal governance, the push back was unbelievable! With accessibility would come familiarity; with familiarity would come commonality; with commonality would come a reduction in authority and power; with reduction of authority and power, all royal mystery would dissolve and The monarch would no longer be unique and special and the principal inherent in ‘divine right of kings (and queens)’ would be on shaky ground indeed!
It’s all so fascinating; I can’t believe I missed such an essential piece of the empire puzzle on my first go-round!
Yet, seeing this particular piece of the story now, at the beginning of Advent, makes Jesus’ nativity all the more powerful; the gift of God’s Son to the world becomes more meaningful in ways even beyond the obvious.
God has given the beloved creation so many gifts in this powerful ‘come to earth’ event.
First: the gift of accessibility.
For starters think about what the chosen of God claimed to know about God throughout the Hebrew Bible?
- God is unable to be seen face to face without fatal consequences for the viewer (Exodus 33:20)
- God is everywhere and knows everything (Psalm 139)
- God is mighty (186 citations in the Hebrew Bible of the NRSV translation)
- The power and glory of the Lord is summed up pretty well in Psalm 8, Psalm 29.
With these descriptors, God seems entirely inaccessible to mere mortals. People seem afraid of God and apparently with good reason; these are scary qualities! No wonder God’s angelic messengers so often begin their communications with mortals with the words: “Don’t be afraid.”
True, God is the divine protector and righteous judge as well, but there is always a bit of trepidation in any human/divine relationship when God is seen through exclusively humans perception; and unfortunately, this perception prevented mortals from completely embracing and trusting God’s intention for creation: to love and be loved by God, and to be the children of God in the truest and most loving sense.
So, what’s God to do?
In Isaiah, it says, God will send a Messiah. A complex figure Who will come into history with all the established attributes of God (Isaiah 9:6-7), yet One Who is also revealed as the suffering servant for the good of the creation; One Who restrains His divine power under the abuse of the worldly authorities who can make no sense of Him (Isaiah 52:13-15), a nurturing shepherd king (Isaiah 40:10-11). So many contradictions! As Richard Rohr would say – this Messiah is a paradox.
So how is God to make God’s Self known to us within the context of human reality? Why is such revelation even important? After all, self-revelation is important in any true love relationship.
The divine self-revelation and avenue, or bridge, for human access to the divine becomes a reality in Jesus Who comes:
- not as a high and mighty earthly king.
- not as a condemning mind reader who calls out our secret thoughts and snoops around in our darkest corners ready to point a divine scepter of rebuke in our direction.
- not as a wealthy overlord, or a mighty warrior running amok throughout the world shooting death rays at the non-compliant.
It is in Jesus that we get a profoundly clear picture of Who God is; in Jesus, we realize God is not at all Who we have made God to be.
Jesus as the revelation of the divine came came to earth as a vulnerable, impoverished, homeless newborn, born among those on the lowest rung of the social scale; seemingly relinquishing all divine power that would have set Him apart from the beloved world He came to save. Now, all humanity would have access to God throughout their relationship with God’s Son! (Ephesians 2:17-18) This is the desire of God’s heart!
Jesus’ humble birth guaranteed that no one would be denied access to Him. No one is unworthy of the blessing of knowing and loving Him even as they are loved and known by Him. No one would feel overpowered by His presence; rather they would be filled with the tender need to care for and protect this Child Who they had no idea had come to care for and protect them! All of this is so different from the human understanding of power, but God’s nature and wisdom are above our own! (1 Corinthians 1:20-31)
Before the coming of Jesus, humanity had a slave mentality – serving a God which terrified them. But with Jesus’ birth, His coming of age (Luke 2:52), and His teachings about His Father’s love for us, we realize God is the absolute nature of a holy and loving parent Who adopts us as beloved sons and daughters (Galatians 4:4-7) and we are in grateful awe for this wonderful gift among so many God has given us!
One of God’s greatest gifts at Christmas? Access to the divine through Christ, God’s Son. Unlike the royalty as portrayed in The Crown, God has built a bridge and we call Him Jesus!
And to God be the glory! AMEN.