Sunday, December 18, 2011
All That is Gold
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
In addition to being a great writer and linguist, J.R.R. Tolkien was a master poet as well, and one of my favorite poems in the entire Lord of the Rings saga is the one that tells about the true identity of Strider the Ranger:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king.
The point of the poem is that appearances can be deceiving – Strider is really Aragorn, lord of the Dunedain and heir to the throne of Gondor. When he sets out from Rivendell with the Fellowship, he has another mission in addition to that of protecting the ringbearer on the way to Mount Doom: to help Gondor in its time of need as it battles against the forces of Sauron and to reclaim the throne of his ancestors. Despite his actual status, however, he is careful to conceal his true identity until the moment is right.
Christmas is a time when we focus on the deceiving appearance of the Messiah when he came to earth in human form. He was the Son of God, yet his earthly father was just a carpenter. His birth occurred not in a palace, but in a stable, surrounded by animals, and his first crib was their feed trough. He was not the great king and military leader that the Jews looked for to conquer the Romans and restore a kingdom like that over which David ruled, yet he saved all people everywhere from something much worse by sacrificing himself for our sins.
This Christmas season, may we remember that "All that is gold does not glitter" and instead, look for the miraculous in the ordinary. May God surprise us in unlooked for places as we celebrate the coming of the Crownless King.