My class had an interesting conversation one December. We were looking at irony in the Christmas story. The discussion unfolded (Socratically, of course—after all, we’re a classical school!) something like this: “What were the Israelites expecting after 400 years of silence?”
They were hoping for a mighty king who would overthrow Roman rule and restore Judea to its original, independent glory. And the irony was that instead, they got a baby. In a lowly manger. “Phooey,” they said. “Forget it.” The Israelites desired a victorious king to ride in on his stallion and save them! But instead, they got a gentle carpenter, who later rode in on a donkey. So they turned away, refusing the offer.
But wait! There is a double irony!! The baby they rejected was, in fact, a bigger and better king than they had wanted! In fact, the Jews set their sights too low. Jesus didn’t come to defeat the Romans—time would accomplish that—no, he defeated the real enemy, the ultimate enemy: Death! Separation from God! Christ crushed the head of that old serpent, Satan, who had precipitated the Fall back in the Garden. So the truth of the matter is the Israelites got, in that little baby, more than they could have asked or imagined. They got the King of Kings! That infant named Immanuel was God With Us, and he defeated the grave. There is now no longer a sting in death. Furthermore, we have eternal life with the God of the Universe because of his victory. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty. The LORD God Almighty; he is the King of glory.