Christmas Day – 2017 LSB #’s 341, 506
Text – Psalm 24:10
Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory!
WHO IS THIS KING OF GLORY?
It was 7:51 in the morning on January 12, 2007. A young man wearing jeans, a T-shirt, & a Washington Nationals baseball hat began playing his violin in a Washington DC subway station. He played for the next hour, performing six classical pieces. During that time 1,097 people passed by. Some even tossed money into his violin case, to the tune of $32.17.
Of those 1,097 people only seven paused longer than 60 seconds. Who was playing the violin in such a strange place? It was Joshua Bell, a Grammy-award winning violinist who had just filled Boston’s Symphony Hall. Though Bell’s talents typically command $1000 a minute, that day in the subway he made $32.17 for an hour’s worth of work.
You can’t fault his instrument. It was a Stradivarius worth $3.5 million. You can’t fault the music. Bell played a piece from Johann Sebastian Bach that he calls “one of the greatest achievements of any man in history.”
There were shoe-shine stands on either side of Joshua Bell. People were buying lattes & lotto tickets. Who had time to stop? Who could afford to be late to work? Not expecting majesty in the midst of the mundane – most people totally missed it!
Today is Christmas, a day filled with presents & parties & lots of dessert. We hear the cacophony of choruses, “Thank you so much,” “You shouldn’t have,” “It just fits.” We delight in the lyrics, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” “I’m dreaming of white a Christmas,” “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.”
Under the holiday spell we shelled out over $500 billion on toys, turkeys, travel, tinsel & beautifully decorated trees. But with all of the hype & hoopla it becomes so easy to pass by the majesty, the real meaning of Christmas. It is so easy to miss! Since His revelation on Mt. Sinai the LORD had lived in a mobile home called the tabernacle. But now David is moving the Ark of the Covenant from Gibeah to the capital city, Jerusalem. Soon a temple would be built for the LORD. For the occasion David composes Psalm 24.
We will focus our attention on the psalm’s last verse which begins with a question & ends with grand affirmation: “Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory!” Israel had seen a lot of kings come & go.
Abraham encountered monarchs called Melchizedek & Abimelech. Moses & Aaron confronted Pharaoh King of Egypt. Joshua defeated Sihon King of the Amorites & Og King of Bashan. And then the Book of Judges tells us about Eglon the King of Moab & Jaban the King of Canaan. So who is this King of Glory?
It is the LORD of hosts, coming to Jerusalem, in, with & under the Ark of the Covenant. He is the King of Glory! But so often this King comes & we miss Him. In the baptismal flood you & I were called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. In the eucharistic body & blood we are fed & nourished for the way.
God has again & again delivered us, saved us & come to us. And yet we still miss it! Why? Hear the word of the LORD from John 3:19: “This is the verdict, light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
We love the darkness of self-centered narcissism; live in the darkness of lies & half-truths; long for more of the darkness that feeds our flesh. The Prince of Darkness mocks our feeble discipleship, our failed relationships, & our fatal attractions.
Who is this King of Glory? We need to know. Oh God, we need to know! That’s why David begins Psalm 24 with the words, “The earth is the LORD’s & the fullness thereof, the world & those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas & established it upon the rivers.” The King of Glory is the King of creation! When He made the world the LORD was like a skilled engineer, building a structure by driving pylons deep into the ground to establish a firm foundation, even in the midst of seas & rivers.
The earth’s architecture is solid. The world is secure. The LORD made it so because, after all, it belongs to Him! “The earth is the LORD’s!” He is the King of Glory! The psalm continues: “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place?”
The questions are significant because the King of Glory calls for clean hands & a pure heart. He rejects what is false & deceitful. He wants every person to seek Him, to seek the face of the God of Jacob. These convicting words invite us to confess, repent & humble ourselves before this great King.
In the 3rd movement of Psalm 24 the questions change from “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place?” to the psalm’s most important question, “Who is this King of Glory?” Israel had multiple opportunities to get this right.
Moses tells us that divine glory is linked to a pillar of cloud & pillar of fire that led the people in the wilderness for 40 years. Isaiah announced that the whole earth is filled with God’s glory while David in Psalm 19 marvels that the heavens declare God’s glory.
When the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines one of Eli’s daughters-in-law names her son “Ichabod,” meaning, “Where is the glory?” Ezekiel dramatically witnessed God’s glory in the form of a supercharged war chariot. But over & over again Israel missed it!
“This is the verdict, light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” So the King of Glory would come again – not to Jerusalem but to Bethlehem; not in the Ark of the Covenant but in the flesh & blood of a real person. “For us men & for our salvation He came down” in the silence of a night, in the warmth of a candle, in the whisper of a baby. This Baby exchanged the robes of eternity for swaddling clothes. He exchanged His golden throne room for a dirty sheep pen. Worshiping angels singing “Holy, holy, holy” from eternity past were exchanged for bewildered shepherds.
Here is majesty in the midst of the mundane; holiness in the filth of manure. The King of Glory comes into the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager, under the protection of a carpenter.
The Son of the heavenly Father took on flesh & blood so He could take you into His arms, heal your hurts, forgive your filth & erase your darkness. He took on flesh, not to demonstrate the innocence of infancy, but to live the life we could not & die our death so we need not.
Jesus is not an assistant to the Father. He isn’t the vice-president of the world, a sort-of Mike Pence of the universe. Jesus isn’t a junior partner to the Father. No. He is a full-fledged member of the godhead, equal with the Father in every way, from eternity past – “Being of one substance with the Father.”
St. John wrote, “Through Him all things were made.” Paul proclaims, “He is the image of the invisible God.” And the Hebrew writer says Jesus is, “the radiance of God’s glory & the exact representation of His being.” There it is again, Jesus is the King of Glory!
It was on the cross that Jesus fully disclosed the glory of God. Any idea of divine glory needs to adjust to Jesus’s willingness to humble himself to death, even death on a cross. St. Paul tells us that the leaders of this age “crucified the Lord of glory.”
The source of truth, He is found guilty of a lie. The source of light, & for three hours He hangs in the darkness. The source of life – He is crucified, dead & buried. A sentimental, syrupy type of love, Jesus is not, but a fierce love for you; driven by nails, marked with scars, crowned with thorns, sealed in holy baptism & delivered to you in the holy supper of His real body & blood. He’s not merely a symbol or representation of love. Jesus is love.
A veteran NFL referee, named Art Holst, tells about a Sunday when Kansas City Chief tight end Fred Arbanas was tackled so hard that his artificial eye popped out. Soon the missing eye was found. Arbanas popped it back into place & was eager to resume play. Holst then said to Arbanas playfully,
“I’m impressed with your courage, Fred. But what would you have done if you had lost the other eye?” “That’s easy,” snapped Arbanas, “I’d become a referee!” Referees aren’t the only ones who live in the dark. So do we! And it is for that reason that we celebrate Christmas, because Jesus came to us as the Light of the world.
Listen to Psalm 24:10 one more time. “Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory!” Don’t miss Him! Amen.
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! Behold, the King of glory waits. The King of kings is drawing near; the Savior of the world is here. Life & salvation He doth bring; therefore rejoice & gladly sing. To God the Father raise your joyful songs of praise. Amen. LSB 341:1.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet