The passing of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has monopolized a lot of news coverage since the story broke yesterday. Much more interesting than the story of his death, however, is the story of his birth … or at least the “official” story of his birth:
For everything that was wrong with Kim Jong Il’s thinking, he apparently recognized one theologically true fact: the solution to man’s problem lies outside the normal human experience. To be accepted as the “savior” of North Korea, he felt the need to make his birth appear to be supernatural. He had to be more than a man. From the Yamato Dynasty in Japan to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, leaders have felt the need to claim some aspect of divinity in order to present themselves as saviors.
But they have all claimed to be men + something divine. They were somewhat divine or descended from a deity. They were partially god or one god of many. They were not the only God, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
Then there was Jesus:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
The Christian claim (and the claim of Jesus himself) is not simply that Jesus is one who is able to save us; it’s that he is the only Savior of the world. It’s not that he is partially god or one god of many; it’s that he is God himself, maker of heaven and earth, who took on the flesh of humanity in order to save us from sin and death and reconcile us to God.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:21-23)
Jesus means “the LORD saves.” Immanuel means “God with us.” Even his names testify to who he was.
Today around the world many are celebrating the death of Kim Jong Il in the hopes it brings increased peace and joy to North Korea and the world at large. Yet with Jesus, tidings of comfort, joy, and peace were sung upon his birth:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord….” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:10-11, 13-14)
What makes the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth credible where the “miraculous” birth of Kim Jong Il isn’t, is that fact that Jesus succeeded where Kim Jong Il couldn’t: Jesus did bring comfort, joy, and peace, he defeated death, and he saved the world. So while the rest of the world celebrates the death of dictator, we can celebrate the birth of the King of kings. Merry Christmas!