The prayer that Jesus taught us to pray ends with a benediction that reminds us who the king is and what he is like. We need reminding. We forget. We go blind. Earthly values brainwash us.

Stepping into the heavenly throne room reshapes us. It opens our eyes anew. It refocuses our hearts and empowers our hands for good. We need this prayer. This Christmas, as we contemplate the upside kingdom of God, let these subversive words guide our prayer:

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

I used to hate Christmas. A long time ago, I worked in retail, as a toy department manager. You would think that would be the perfect job at Christmas. Nope, not even close! Trying to anticipate the hot ticket items, only to have them show up back ordered was frustrating. Serving customers who were frantically searching for that hot ticket item was a challenge.

Their frayed nerves did not appreciate the empty shelf where that item had been yesterday.

Then there were those customers who grudgingly heaped their carts full of thousands of dollars of merchandise and subsequently complained about how they were just getting started on their Christmas shopping. The blatant commercialism of the holiday ate away at me. Being witness to, and a part of, the idolatrous worship in the church of the mall; stole my joy.

It has taken many years, soaking deeply in the glorious beauty of the incarnation of Jesus, to restore a love for Christmas. One of the great things about being a pastor was that at this time every year, I had the privilege of refocusing people’s attention on the true Good News of the season. For me it was cathartic. It was an act of subversion against the values of this world.

An act of subversion against the values of this world is exactly what the Christmas story is. The prevailing power of Jesus day was Rome. The Romans came with a “good news” story. “Lord” Caesar, acting as saviour, had brought the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome). Augustus, the Caesar in power when Jesus was born, made the “good news” proclamation. He framed the empire as a kingdom built on peace, prosperity, security, and equity. It was peace from the edge of a blade or the end of a spear. Pax Romana was only good news if you were one of the privileged.

With this cultural backdrop, listen to the angel’s birth announcement in Luke 2:

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem…Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.

Jesus opening salvo in Luke 4 is an announcement about what his good news kingdom looks like:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.

Subversion Indeed! This is a different kind of Good News from a different kind of King. It is Good News for all, especially those exempt from good news in the world’s value system. It is an invitation to find true peace by abandoning fear and trusting in the goodness of the king. It all starts with an invasion, by a baby, the King of Heaven taking up residence on earth.

The prayer that Jesus taught us to pray ends with a benediction that reminds us who the king is and what he is like. We need reminding. We forget. We go blind. Earthly values brainwash us. We make peace at the end of our harsh put-down, or manipulative scheme. We build our own realms. We exercise our power. We seek our own glory. That is a very small kingdom.

Stepping into the heavenly throne room reshapes us. It opens our eyes anew. It refocuses our hearts and empowers our hands for good. We need this prayer. This Christmas, as we contemplate the upside kingdom of God, let these subversive words guide our prayer:

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.