I grew up using the word ‘Lord’ in worship services. ‘Lord God, Lord Jesus, Lord above, Lord almighty, Dear Lord, Lord Help me, Lord save me, Lord be with them.’ We threw it around pretty loosely. I think we still do.
It occurred to me while reading historical ficiton that maybe modern people just don’t get the idea of a Lord. You see, one of my favorite series of books is the Saxon Chronicles, by Bernard Cornwell. It tells the story of young Uhtred, an Anglo Saxon nobleman captured by Danes as a child and raised among them, but who ultimately sides with England and his own Lord, King Alfred the Great. It’s a story involving intrigue, battle, passion, faith, family, loss and a deep, recurring conflict of loyalties.
(It’s also on Netflix if you prefer your Vikings digital…)
But I notice that when Uhtred speaks to either a powerful Dane or to King Alfred the Great, he often says ‘Lord.’ And he means it. It is a term of reverence and of obedience. It is a way of saying, ‘I am at your mercy and at your service.’ It means that he will go and do as he is told (harder for Uhtred than for most), and that his Lord will protect and reward him. He sometimes refers to Danish lords as ‘ring-givers,’ for the tradition of rewarding valor with gold arm rings. But the service he owes may also mean death. And the reward may be long in coming.
(King Alfred is the only English King to be called ‘The Great.’ Your history nerd fact for the day.)
‘Oh Lord.’ We democratic modern people have lost that sense. We seem to subject so much of our faith to a kind of referendum based on popular opinion. We don’t approach him the way our mostly poor and powerless ancestors would have approached a Lord who rode through their towns, much less one who came into their homes; or called them to his own hall.
‘Jesus, now look, what you said was kind of mean so I’m not really going to do it that way or teach it. You have to understand, we all got together and talked about it. We love nice Jesus who suggests things. Lord Jesus? Well that’s a bit much you see!’
And yet, here are some verses. From the Bible. The same Bible which, we are appropriately reminded daily, calls us to be kind to orphans, widows, immigrants and everyone downtrodden.
‘For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.’ Luke 2: 11
‘…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Romans 10:9
‘For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knew will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ Philipians 2: 9-11
‘These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.’ Revelations 17:14
Here are the above verses and others:
It’s Christmas now and we are supposed to be celebrating the coming of the Lord, the King, who turned the whole world and all its rules rulers upside down.
We are awash in terrible Christmas songs, gaudy decorations, terrifying sweaters and a misery inducing desire to buy gifts. The ‘meaning of Christmas,’ is lost among sweet but shallow movies and television shows which suggest it’s all about being nice, about Santa and children, about new romance, calling family or decorating trees. About wise ghosts who visit us or lost puppies who come home.
But in fact, we who call ourselves Christians celebrate the coming of the Lord; our Lord. The birth of the suffering servant and also the Lord, Mighty in Battle, who redeems us out of slavery to sin, who calls us to quest and suffer for Him, with Him, so that He can call us His own and reward us in due course.
The baby in the manger is sweet. But He is is quickly a man establishing His Kingdom on earth, in hearts and in eternity. The baby in the manger, the ‘infant lowly, infant holy,’ is hiding our Lord, our ‘ring giver,’ our sovereign among the swaddling clothes.
The King is here! Long Live the King!
Glory to our Lord!