Powerful Lord or helpless babe in a manger?

That was the question I often posed at the door as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I promoted the idea that celebrating the birth of Jesus was in error for several reasons; namely that December 25 had ties to pre-Christian celebrations. But I also engaged people in conversation about babies who grew up to be kings. Why were we celebrating a “babe in a manger” rather than talking about what Jesus was doing NOW?

As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I believed Jesus began His rule in 1914 and wanted to tell people about His kingly acts of power rather than His swaddling clothes. Though I put away my Watchtower magazines a long time ago, I still think it’s an important question for all of us to ponder. What is Jesus doing now? Is He ruling and reigning as Lord or still just the little baby with no crib for a bed?

After leaving the Watchtower, I learned the last days began at Pentecost, not 1914. It was then Peter stood up to announce that Jesus had been exalted to the right hand of God who made Him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:32-36).

Whether His rule began in AD 33 as the Bible announces, or in 1914 as the Watchtower falsely claims, I was certain we shouldn’t be focusing on a baby with no where to lay down His sweet head. After all, Jesus was no longer a babe in the manger.

But it turns out that singing about the birth of this baby led me to appreciate that His Lordship began long before either of those dates anyway. In fact, it was wrong of me to assume that my neighbors had no appreciation for Jesus as Lord simply because they sang about Him as a baby. One popular carol they were singing was first performed 100 years prior to 1914 and it proclaimed Jesus was “Lord at thy birth!”

Jesus, Lord at thy birth?

The Christmas song ‘Silent Night’ was first performed in 1818 (nearly 100 years before 1914) and declared Jesus as Lord much, much earlier than I had determined from Scripture or the Watchtower’s false doctrine of 1914.

I’d never thought about His Lordship being that early before. But when the angel appeared to the shepherds in the field the night of His birth, he announced “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) That angel did not deny this was still a baby in a manger, yet he called Him “Christ the Lord.”

And let’s not forget that even prior to that night, Elizabeth understood that her relative Mary had within her womb, not just a baby, but her Lord!

And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.

Luke 1:43-44

The lowly shepherds and later the magi who came to visit the young Jesus understood they were seeing more than a baby. They were not going to wait to see what this child might possibly become, they fully embraced Him as Lord at His birth!

Simeon and the prophetess Anna looked upon a baby born to parents of little means, yet by the Spirit of God their words became part of the inspired canon declaring this child as the Christ who would redeem Israel. (Luke 2:25-38)

Each one of these had recognized the significance of the birth of this child before He ever began to teach or perform miracles. They glorified God because their eyes of faith saw more than a helpless newborn in a manger or another Jewish baby being dedicated at the Temple.

In fact, even those opposed to Jesus saw His power as Lord before He was old enough to present Himself as a threat to their domain. Herod the king sought to kill the baby Jesus after hearing the magi inquire of His birth.

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2)

Imagine that! A king afraid of a little baby.

But the magi were truly wise men, for when they found the small child “they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” (Matthew 2:11)

His first visitors had to bow down to look upon Him as “Lord at thy birth,” but as Jesus matured to manhood, others tried to make Him their earthly king. (John 6:15) But Jesus did not seek to have men look up to Him here.

Though He was born Lord at thy birth, He spent His time on earth bowing down to others.

Postured to be King over all, yet His final acts were bowing to wash the feet of others. He remained silent in the face of betrayal and carried a cross. His last breath was spent forgiving those who tortured Him and nailed His flesh to a tree. His head bowed to them as He gave up the ghost. Hardly a powerful Lord anyone could look up to. And yet, their own action of hanging Him upon a cross forced them to look up as they killed the one sent to be their King.

Before ascending to the Father, Jesus declared all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). In God’s economy, dominion is granted by humble servitude and not violent force. That’s why it’s still good for us to focus on this helpless babe in a manger even though He grew up and proved Himself to be the Lord and King. If wise men came to worship Him as a child, so can I, for He was and is Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie