Who is the King of Christmas? Many Americans would vote for Santa Claus. He embodies godlike qualities we might like to see in a king ruling over us. He knows who is naughty and who is nice (omniscience?). He creates billions of presents for all the children of the earth (omnipotence?). As a jolly old elf, he loves all people (omnibenevolence?). And he manages the physically impossible task of visiting every household on earth in a tight window of 24 hours or so (omnipresence?). His gifting seems to exemplify justice (concern for poor children), mercy (overlooking a few moral boo-boos), and humility (no self-praising tweets about his accomplishments).
Santa seems a much better King of Christmas than such pretenders such as Rudolf (abnormal nasal appearance), Frosty (undependable, melting presence), or Tiny Tim (too young). Problem: the Santa Claus we culturally celebrate is a fictional character, not a real person.
In Genesis, a picture of the future Messiah, the needed Savior of humankind, emerges for us. As the author of Hebrews might say, the messianic picture is in little bits and pieces, and we understand the hints of Genesis far better in hindsight than the ancients did in foresight.
One of these is the prediction that the future Messiah would be a king, a royal person. The narrative focus in Genesis is on various patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Joseph, etc. These were family chiefs, but were not kings. Yet at the end of Genesis, the glimmer of a king emerges. Genesis 49 presents the aged Jacob giving blessings to his twelve sons. He has words for each, an ironic act given that Jacob’s life was radically affected when he stole his brother Esau’s blessing from his father, Isaac.
Judah, the youngest of the four sons of Leah, receives his blessing in Genesis 49:8-12. This passage is loaded with images that become important in later texts. Judah is promised that his brothers would bow down to him, an act of acknowledging royalty. He is equated to a lion, the source of the powerful image of Revelation, the Lion of Judah. He is prophesied to wash his robes in wine, a foreshadowing of the saints of Revelation who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
The most intriguing text is Genesis 49:10:
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
This is not an easy text to translate, but Christmas morning is no time to unravel that scholarly debate. Notice two things. First, the language of “scepter” and “ruler’s staff,” the physical implements of kingship. Second, the promise of one who is coming who is the true and rightful king commanding the “obedience of the nations.”
I know I have biases and presuppositions as a Christian, but I cannot help but see this as a prediction of the Messiah. Would he be a warrior? Maybe. Would he be a judge? Maybe. Would he be a teacher? Maybe. But would he be a King? Definitely! And this royalty is tied to Judah, the ancestor of King David and of Joseph of Nazareth. The coming Messiah of Genesis would be the King of Kings of Revelation. Paul promises that eventually, every knee would bend and every head would bow in recognition of his royal reign over all peoples.
The 19th century New England newspaper editor, Josiah Holland wrote a poem for Christmas in 1872 entitled, “There’s a Song in the Air.” This is the fourth stanza:
We rejoice in the light,
and we echo the song
that comes down through the night
from the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely
evangel they bring,
and we greet in his cradle
our Savior and King!
Christmas is a time of motherhood, of gifts, of stables, of babies, of angels, and of mangers. Let us not forget the original location was David’s royal city, Bethlehem, and that that manger cradled the “Little Lord Jesus,” our “Savior and King!” He and he alone is the King of Christmas.
Mark S. Krause
Nebraska Christian College of Hope International University