I want you to join me in looking at the crucifix. Last Sunday we celebrated Christ the King. Father Paul spoke to us about the inscription above Jesus’ head: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” You know, when we look at him up there, he doesn’t look terribly impressive. In comparison to the rulers we’re more familiar with. He’s barely dressed – no shoes – not even sandals. He’s too skinny for us to believe that he dined in elegance each night. Our King!
You all know about Queen Elizabeth II. She has a special role for us in Canada. She owns vast amounts of property and is one of the richest women in the world. She receives tens of millions of pounds each year from the people of Great Britain. Now the people of Great Britain have had a rough time over the past couple of years with the world-wide financial crisis. Queen Elizabeth still made tens of millions of pounds each year. I’m not saying if that’s fair or not. The Queen’s position requires a number of costly activities. And I would guess that many people in Great Britain feel that the Queen should not have to suffer like the rest of the people in Britain – after all, she’s different.
Ferdinand Marcos was the President of the Philippines. He accumulated a vast fortune, and there were many who said that his fortune came dishonestly from public funds. The Philippines is a poor country, but Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda were wealthy beyond belief. We have all heard of Imelda Marcos’ collection of nearly 3,000 pairs of shoes. The life of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos bore little resemblance to the lives of their people
The Sultan of Brunei is the head of state and head of government of Brunei, a small country on the north coast of the island of Borneo. He’s estimated to be worth more than 22 billion dollars. His palace has more than two million square feet of living space. While the standard of living in Brunei is thought to be one of the highest in Asia, few of his people could afford the estimated $15,000 that the Sultan once paid for a haircut. It’s said that he has entire walls in his palace that are covered with gold. The Sultan’s brother has been accused of misappropriating 16 billion dollars of government money – the people’s money. Both the Sultan and his brother have lifestyles that are opulent and excessive beyond anything imaginable by their people.
So we have a queen, a president, and a sultan. I’m not putting them all in the same moral or ethical category. So please, if you’re a fan of the Queen, I’m not being critical. But it’s clear that these earthly royals are separated from their people in very important ways.
Now focus again on our King. As Father Paul told us last week, Jesus is the King of the universe. Everything that’s controlled by the Queen or the Sultan of Brunei – everything that was controlled by Ferdinand Marcos was created by our King. And yet, he chose NOT to remain separated from us. Rather, he chose to enter fully into the human condition. Look at him hanging on the cross. Who could say that he didn’t experience human suffering?
This is why we celebrate Advent each year. This is why, each year, we anticipate the coming of our King as if he were entering the world as a human person for the first time, as he did more than 2,000 years ago. God, our Creator, chose to become one of us.
Now why did he make this choice? Well, it was my fault – and it was Adam’s fault – and it was Eve’s fault – and it was your fault. Because we sinned against God, the most perfect, kind, and loving being in the universe, it was necessary for God to save us. He did this through Jesus.
We look forward to his arrival among us not in a two million square foot palace, but in a stable – not attended by an army of doctors, but by some farm animals and a couple of shepherds. This is how he came into the world, and we see on the cross how he left. Not rich – not powerful – not impressive in a worldly sense, but overwhelming when we understand who this baby is lying in the straw – who this man is hanging on the cross. The Gospel today tells us that when he comes again, things will be very different: “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.” Yes, things will be different.
I said a moment ago that God chose to enter the world as a human person because we sinned. We hear about sin throughout the Bible. I did an electronic search of the word “sin” in our version of the Bible, hoping that I could count them up and give you the number. It would have taken too much time to total all the hits – it’s in the hundreds. With all that talk of sin, and with an understanding that it was our sins that brought Jesus into our lowly human condition, we must ask ourselves: “Are we bad people?”
In his first talk in the “Nothing More Beautiful” series, Archbishop Smith dealt with the very important question of whether we are bad people. His response was emphatic and simple: “No.” He went on to explain: “We have been created in the image and likeness of God. God alone is our Creator, and he has fashioned us for himself. The Church teaches, therefore, that the human person is essentially good. But ours is a fragile goodness, due to the effects within us of the original sin. We are called to be holy, but we are weak and vulnerable, unable to attain to holiness on our own.”
He continued, and his words speak to our experience of Advent: “From the heart of the Father [Jesus] has come to the world. He has come to those who have been fashioned in the image and likeness of God and thus called to a communion of love with God. He has come to those in whom this image has become disfigured by sin, so that the image might be restored to its beauty.”
And so, in this season of Advent, we wait patiently for the coming of our King. He will come to save us. He will come to connect with the image and likeness of God that’s inside all of us. His coming as our Saviour confirms our fundamental goodness. But he will be a ruler unlike any of the earthly rulers we know – a King who will be fully immersed in the human condition: no pomp, no circumstance. To quote Archbishop Smith: “There is nothing more beautiful than this.”