"The Prince of Paradox"
In our writing unit about Figurative Language, I teach my 7th graders about paradox - "a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true." When I explain this concept, some of my favorite teachings of Jesus always seem to come to mind: "The last will be first, and the first last" (Matt 15:16). "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt 16:25). Yet, this sort of contradictory language is not merely included in the teaching of Jesus; one could say that everything about him and his entire life is paradoxical.
Jesus Christ certainly descended from many royal ancestors. The Hebrew Patriarchs Abraham and Jacob as well as King David all find themselves in the genealologies of Matthew and Luke. Historically, the primary santuary color during Advent has been purple, selected to remind us of the royalty of our King. However, the kingship of Jesus was and still is radically different than any traditional definition of royalty. In the days of the nation of Israel, kings were the commanders of armies, the leaders of men, and honored for their strength and power. As time progressed, after multiple bouts of oppression and captivity, the Jews of Jesus' day and age were yearning for a king like this. Yet, in their frustrated cries for one who would lead the overthow of Roman rule, they had forgotten what the prophet Isaiah has said about the Messiah. He was one who would be despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He would not conquer oppression by force, but he himself would bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, and be wounded for our transgressions. Our Prince of Peace would bring peace and healing through his own chastisement and stripes. (Isaiah 53:3-5)
During Advent, we look back and remember our Prince - a Prince not born in a lavish palace, but in a dirty manger. These humble beginnings set the course of a life of paradox. He simultaneously amazed and confused those he came in contact with, culminating with his entry to the royal city of Jerusalem on a lowly donkey followed his criminal trial and execution. Yet, it was these radical ideas and this unconventional life that changed the course of history forever and introduced the most beautifully paradoxical and revolutionary set of ideals that the world has ever known. Leo Tolstoy states that the message and person of Christ "changed and reversed everything" and "gave another, new direction to all human feelings." The image of the Christ child in the manger may be a familiar one, but we should never forget its revolutionary implications. And, we should never forget that Christ's unconventional life is the ultimate example of how we should seek to live. May we live lives of purposeful paradox in reverant obedience to our meek and mild Prince of Peace. For, "the greatest among you shall be your servant...whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt 23:11-12)
Give me the lowest place: not that I dare
Ask for that lowest place, but Thou hast died
That I might live and share
Thy glory by Thy side.