In 1 Samuel, the people of Israel tell their prophet Samuel that they want a king, like all the other nations have. Because Israel’s experience with foreign kings (*cough* Egypt’s Pharaoh *cough*) had worked out so well in the past.
God tells Samuel to give them what they want, despite the consequences that will follow. Israel gets king after king, some of whom are good, some of whom are decent, some of whom are horrible. Eventually, the kingdom splits into two, and the northern and southern remnants of what used to be a great country were conquered by their enemies.
Before the kingdom’s demise, God promises David, one of Israel’s better kings (and even then, he was still pretty bad), that he would always have a descendant on the throne. That king would be a son to God, and God would be a father to him. The promise of an heir of David ruling Israel continued even after the kingdom fell and remained such a powerful thought that when the Jewish people of Jesus’ time imagined a savior sent from God, they also imagined that person to be a part of David’s family.
This promised ruler was Jesus of Nazareth, who we Christians affirm was not only the promised savior but also the God who had promised that savior in the first place. The same God whose kingship had been rejected by Israel had now become king of Israel by being born in the line of David.
What’s interesting about this to me is that God didn’t abolish the idea of a monarch in Israel. Instead, He entered into the monarchy that shouldn’t have existed and lived in such a way that He took back His throne.
Israel had requested a human king.
God gave them one.
And then He became the human king of Israel to bring Israel back to Himself.
And it occurs to me that this idea of God entering an imperfect situation to make things right is kind of what Christmas is all about.