There’s something truly beautiful about moving directly from Christ the King Sunday to the opening chapters of the gospel of Luke. From celebrating the reign of Christ to the birth of this vulnerable baby in a vulnerable family. To celebrate the promise that Christ is lord of all and then move to the beginning of the incarnation, where God flips all our expectations on their heads. The barren will have children. The blind will see. The hungry will be fed. But the tyrants will be overthrown. God’s reign is not one of “might makes right,” but of love, compassion, justice, and mercy. The king comes not with armies and terror, not as a conqueror, but as a baby, as a crucified savior. Dwell in these reversals throughout Luke and in these days of Advent. Expectations are flipped on their heads, and power structures are reversed.
The gospel of Luke opens with the stories immediately leading up to Jesus’ birth. We read about John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, born to a family too old to have children. We read about the angel visiting Mary, a woman who wasn’t even married yet. This beautiful nativity story we love from Luke begins setting up the great reversals in this story. The people of Judah, God’s chosen people, have been conquered; they live as an occupied Roman territory, with Rome imposing leaders and policies. And in the midst of this, an angel appears to an unmarried woman in Nazareth, saying that she will bear the promised messiah. This child will be named Jesus, from the Aramaic for “he saves,” but Luke does not tell us about visits from far away kings or wise men who recognized and celebrated this child. Nor does Luke tell us of a frightened and jealous King Herod who fears this baby. Instead, the ones who notice in Luke’s telling of the story are shepherds who have been visited by angels. The Magnificat, Mary’s song, celebrates the idea of reversals that will continue to be important throughout Luke’s gospel. She sings,
“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53)
In this Advent season, as we begin our year of studying the gospel of Luke, we remember these great reversals and surprises, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all: God with us.