Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 22, 2013 - Christmas Hope

December 22, 2013
Romans 8:18-25
Matthew 2:6

For your Christmas enjoyment, here is a little humor.  A man walked into a jewelry store to buy his wife a Christmas present.  The clerk showed him a number of nice pieces of jewelry, and he said, those are all very nice, but can you show me something cheaper?  She selected several other pieces and, once again, he said, can you show me something cheaper?  Selecting several more peaces he was again dissatisfied with what he saw and said can you show me something really cheap?  She held up a mirror.

What are the essentials of life?  What is absolutely necessary for people to live?  Food, water, shelter, clothing – there are some very tangible items needed to sustain life, but there are some intangibles as well.  One of those is hope.

Having hope is not easy these days.  Political campaigns promise hope but fewer and fewer people seem to have hope.  In 1999, 85% of Americans said they were hopeful about their own future and 68% said they were hopeful for the future of the world.  A few years ago only 69% were hopeful for their own future and only 51% were hopeful about the future of the world (from a CNN opinion poll).  It’s probably dropped even more since then.

There is a trinity of values in the Christian faith – as Paul describes them in I Corinthians 13, they are faith, hope, and love, none of which we can live without.

Hope, we must note, is much more than wishful thinking.  We might say I hope the Steelers win the Super Bowl this year.  I hope UK wins the NCAA this year.  I hope UofL doesn’t win anything this year.

1.  Hope is an affirmation of belief in God’s promise of the future.  
It is the belief in that promise that compels people to continue to move forward.  The Hebrew people had the hope of the Promised Land.  For centuries they endured slavery in Egypt, but they had hope in the promise of the future that one day they would not only have freedom but a home as well.  That hope is what enabled them to endure through the many years of struggle and despair.  

Job, a towering figure when it comes to hope, clung to the hope that God was with him and had not turned against him.  I read several passages daily and one of them is Job 13:15, which says though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.  Nothing could cause Job to lose hope, not even his friends who came to him and encouraged him to give up.  They saw no reason for hope, but Job did.

The early church had hope for a future free of persecution.  As the mighty Roman Empire put many to death in horrific ways – as fodder for the animals and the gladiators in the Coliseum, as human torches lighting Nero’s gardens at night, and in countless other types of persecution – instead of losing hope their hope grew and with it grew the church.

When Paul writes of hope he is writing from very deep experience.  It’s not an academic treatise; it’s real life.  Paul suffered in so many ways – he was arrested and beaten (II Corinthians 11:13-29), people sought to kill him, and he was eventually executed – this was a guy who really understood hope.  In the midst of his greatest trial – awaiting execution – he writes the letter to the Philippians and they are beautiful words; they are words of hope.

2. Hope is what allows one to look at the terrible circumstances of the world and say things can be better. 
Hope is what allows us to face our struggles, to look them straight in the eye, and say I can do this; this is possible; the Spirit of God will provide the strength to endure and His promise of a better future is true.

Victor Fankel learned that hope.  He was a prisoner in a concentration camp, and at the entrance a sign bore the words abandon all hope ye who enter here, which is Dante’s inscription on the entrance of Hell.  He lost everything.  Every possession was taken from him, and he suffered from cold, hunger, brutality, and the constant fear of death.  While in the camp he lost his father, mother, brother, and his wife. 

He later wrote of one of his darkest moments.  He was digging in a cold, icy trench, and at that moment felt the hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom.  I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious “yes” in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose.

At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, and upon seeing that light, hope was kindled in him, and his words at that moment were et lux in tenebris lucentand the light shineth in the darkness.  John 1:5 says the light shines in the darkness.  We read that verse last week in our Scripture reading.
Hope is the light that shines in the darkness of life.  It is a light that illumines this life.

Christians have been accused over the years of concentrating so much on eternal life that the problems of this life are overlooked.  But genuine hope never forgets this world.  In fact, C. S. Lewis says that it is when Christians have most thought of the next world that they have worked to improve this world.
(Mere Christianity, p. 118)

3. Proper hope, then, becomes something that moves us to make a difference in this world and in this life. 
Hope changes things in this life.  Proper hope does not ask people to simply endure this life while they are awaiting the next.  A hope that sees something beyond this life sees how things should be, and when we see how things should be we work to make them that way.  That’s why most of the great social movements in history have come out of the church; because the church saw how things could be and should be, and they worked to make it so.

Hope, then, makes all the difference.  One of my favorite stories of hope is the story behind the great hymn It Is Well With My Soul.  The hymn was written by Horatio Spafford, who was a lawyer in Chicago in the mid 1860s.  He had a very successful career, but in 1870 a series of tragedies befell the family, beginning with the death of their four-year-old son from Scarlet Fever.  A year later almost all of the Spafford’s real estate holdings were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, causing Spafford to lose his life savings.

In 1873 his family planned a trip to England, but at the last minute Spafford was called back to Chicago on business.  He sent his wife and four daughters on to England, anxious to see them enjoy a trip to take their mind off their tragedies.  But tragedy struck on the trip, as their ship collided with another, and sunk in only twelve minutes.  Spafford’s wife survived but their four daughters perished.

Spafford took the first ship out of New York to meet his wife, and during the voyage the ship’s captain called Spafford to the bridge.  The captain explained they were passing the spot where his daughters had perished.  Spafford returned to his cabin and wrote the hymn, which included these words – when peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll.  Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.

When hope exists, people can survive even the most desperate of circumstances.  As Emily Dickinson writes in her poem Hope,

Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune – without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

May hope live in us always.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 15, 2013 - Christmas Grace

Isaiah 11:1-6; Jeremiah 31:3, 13b

One summer early in my high school years, when I attended church camp, one of our counselors gave us a challenge to read four chapters of the Bible every day.  He said if we would read four chapters a day it would help us greatly in our faith and in how we lived our daily lives.  But we had to be sure to read at least four chapters a day; in that, he was very adamant.

I went home and tried to live up to that challenge.  I did okay for the first few days, but it didn’t take long before my good intentions started going south.  I started reading it as quickly as I could, not worrying about getting anything out of what I was reading; I was simply trying to complete the reading.  I soon was skimming those chapters so quickly that I didn’t comprehending much of anything.  And then I started missing some days.  When you miss a couple of days in a row those four chapters a day multiply really quickly.  When you have to read twelve or sixteen chapters a day to catch up it’s easy to become discouraged.  I don’t remember when I gave up on the four chapters a day, but it was probably before the summer was over.

As I’ve moved through the years, I’ve found that someone is always anxious to tell you what you must do to be a faithful follower of Christ.  Here is the prayer you should pray every day; here is the book you must read; here is the Bible study you use; here is the conference you must attend. And while those may be helpful tools, to be honest, it always seemed to be more of a burden that a joy, because their methods involved a lot of work and expectations and regulations.  Faith can become like a job, full of duty and devotion, which steal away the sense of excitement and joy.  People also want to tell you what kind of music you should – or shouldn’t – listen to.  I received a lot of the you shouldn’t listen to that kind of music.  I am a child of the rock and roll era, and I like to listen to, and play, rock and roll.  When I was younger there were plenty of people who scolded me for listening to and playing that kind of music.  They also criticized me for the movies I watched and other any manner of other things.

I’ve noticed over the years that ministers sometimes specialize in imposing those types of burdens upon people.  Ministers sometimes add any number of rules and regulations to people’s lives.  I attended one minister’s group where they were constantly seeking to impose regulations upon people.  One time the group made a proposal that none of us would perform a wedding ceremony unless people would agree to specific rules and expectations.  I’m all for strengthening marriages, but most of the proposals were unrealistic and burdensome.  Then they had the idea that before any of us would agree to baptize someone, the candidate must agree to all manner of theological tests, where their beliefs would be examined and judged whether or not they were acceptable.  Then they decided we should agree that before someone could become a member of a church, they would have to agree to more regulations and rules and expectations.  Their logic was this – if you raise the bar high enough in terms of expectations and duties, people will become more serious about their faith and more committed to both their faith and the church.

You know what I think?  That kind of approach just wears people out.  Who wants to be loaded down and bludgeoned with rules and regulations and expectations?  I sure don’t.  In my experience, most people are simply trying to get through daily life, and they want their faith and their church to be a source of strength that will help them get through each day, not to be an additional burden.

I think this is one of the reasons why so many people today will claim they are spiritual but not religious.  I believe they are certainly not reacting against God, but are most likely reacting to the stale, cold religion they see practiced and encouraged by far too many people, and they have decided they want no part of it.

As we continue through Advent, this morning I want us to consider Christmas Grace.  Jesus was born into a time when much of the religion was stale and cold and dead.  It was stale and cold and dead because the religious establishment had turned it into a burden.  Instead of being a source of freedom, encouragement, and joy, faith was turned into lifeless, unappealing religion.  They turned much of faith into a lifeless, unappealing religion because they forgot about grace.

Jesus was about grace, not burdens.  He came to give life, and to give a more abundant life.  He offered a burden that was light and easy in comparison to the heavy burden of regulations and duties offered by the religious leaders.

William Graham Tullian Tchividjian is the author of the book One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. While you may struggle to pronounce his last name, as do I, you will recognize his first two names.  Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham.  His also a pretty good theologian.  Listen to what he writes in his book –

While attacks on morality will always come from outside the church, attacks on grace will always come from inside the church because somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe that this whole thing is about behavioral modification and personal moral improvement. We’ve concluded that grace just doesn’t possess the teeth to scare us into changing. As a result we get a steady diet of “do more, try harder” sermons; we get a “to do list” version of Christianity that causes us to believe the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian. So we end up hearing more about “Christian living” than the Christ.

We think this will be what gets people to clean up their act, to fix themselves, to volunteer in the nursery, to obey, to read their Bibles, to change the world–but it actually has the opposite effect. A steady diet of “do more, try harder” sermons doesn’t cause people to do more or try harder…it makes them give up. Legalism produces lawlessness 10 times out of 10.

Isn’t that an interesting statement – legalism produces lawlessness 10 times out of 10.  Loading people down with rules and regulations, giving them stale, cold religion rather than a living, vital faith that connects them with God will indeed fail to produce love and faithfulness. It will instead produce discouragement and the tendency to give up rather than live a life of faith.

I’m not big on theological language.  Seminary burned me out on a lot of theology, because it didn’t always make a lot of sense to me.  Some theology is just badly written.  There are, I think, two kinds of theologians – those who write with an impenetrable prose that really doesn’t say anything, but sounds so profound that people treat it as such.  I didn’t then, and I still don’t like reading that kind of theology, which specializes in statements such as God is the ground of our being, as our being is found in his being, as he is the being of all being, and we are called to find our being in his ultimate being, so we are ultimately placing within his being, our being.  I just made that up, but that’s how a lot of theology sounds to me.  It just goes in a circle without really saying anything.  The other kind of theologian is the one who can take difficult and profound theological concepts and put them in a simple and easy to understand form, using language that will speak to our hearts as much as to our heads. The great theologian Karl Barth, for instance, in very simple, yet profound, theological language said God is reached by the shortest ladder, not by the longest ladder (Why Does the World Exist? Jim Holt, pp 251-242).  There’s a lot of people attempting to make us climb an incredibly long ladder to get to God, adding so many requirements and so many regulations, but the goal isn’t to make faith more difficult; it is to remind people that faith is based on love, which is so wonderful and so life-giving that we are joyfully compelled to respond to God.

Grace desires that we respond to God out of love and gratitude, not obligation and responsibility.  Grace, unlike obligation and duty, calls out of us joy and life.  In fact, when we respond out of grace, we are more likely to be the kinds of people God desires us to be, because we actually do better when responding out of love and grace. Charles Spurgeon, the famed 19th century British minister, nailed it when he said, When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I beat my breast to think I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so and sought my good.

In the same way, I was far more likely to do what my parents wanted me to do, not because I feared them or because they loaded me down with rules, but because I knew they loved me and I wanted to respond to that love by becoming the person they desired me to be.  I was the type of kid that, when given a rule, had the tendency to want to break the rule.  I don’t know why I wanted to do that; it’s just the way I responded to rules.  My parents didn’t load me down with a lot of rules, thankfully, and I wanted to live up to their expectations of me because I was well aware of their love for me.

In this morning’s Scripture passage Jeremiah says that God has loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3).  The intent of God is not to load us down with so many rules, but to draw us to him through his love.  Rules and regulations are not attractive to anyone, but love certainly is.

Sometimes, faith and Christmas suffer the same difficulty – people load so much upon them both.  People add so many obligations and rules to faith, just as people sometimes add so many things to Christmas, making it far more complicated than it was ever meant to be.

On Friday evening, almost at the end of the cantata, came one of those interesting moments that sometimes occur, moments that provide a flash of insight into something important.  We were singing the final song, which is just a piece of Silent Night –
Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
At the moment we sang the line radiant beams from thy holy face, I heard the cry of a young child.  It was a moment that seemed destined to serve as a reminder of the cry of the infant Jesus.  In the midst of a world so full of struggle and chaos, the humble birth of Jesus was overlooked by almost everyone.  In the hustle and bustle of our modern Christmas, though we sing the songs and enjoy the activities of the season, we can still miss the cry of the Christ child.

May our hearts and minds hear his cry, and allow his grace – Christmas grace – to draw us to him.

Monday, December 09, 2013

December 5, 2013 - Some Thoughts for Advent

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

As we enjoyed the first Sunday of Advent last week, I found the music, the readings, and all the service to be very moving.  At one moment, as I watched the flame of the first Advent candle, its vulnerability struck me as representative of the vulnerability of our lives.  There are so many challenges we face, and we never know what we might encounter each day.  The season of Advent is about preparation, and I think that certainly means to be prepared for whatever life may bring to us.

This morning, I want to offer Some Thoughts for Advent.  Technically speaking, we are not in the Christmas season; we are in the Advent season. According to the Christian calendar, the Christmas season begins on Christmas day and ends on January 6th, the day we refer to as Epiphany (Epiphany marks the coming of the magi to see the Christ child).  This period of time became known as the 12 days of Christmas.  Because of the economic impact of Christmas shopping, and the earlier start to the shopping season with each passing year, we have, for the most part, lost the sense of the Christian calendar’s marking of Advent and Christmas.

Christmas is a time to pray for peace. 
Several weeks ago, as I read an article about the Gettysburg Address, there was an accompanying picture.  It was an officer on his horse in the foreground of the picture.  The horse had its head low to the ground, and the head of the general was bowed forward as well, giving both a look of prayer, but also of great sadness.  In the background of the picture was a panoramic view of the battlefield, with casualties everywhere.  It was such a sad picture.  Out of curiosity I tried to find an answer to the question of how many people have lost their lives in all of humanity’s wars.  The lists of wars and the estimates were really staggering, so much so that I didn’t bother to add up the losses.

Humanity doesn’t seem to learn many lessons about war.  From Cain and Abel to our day, violence has become ingrained into the human condition.

The song of the angels was for peace on earth (Luke 2:14).  Peace incorporates both the personal and the political realms.  Faith is about peace!

Our world, always engulfed in political turmoil, is now so connected that the ramifications of that turmoil are far more serious than ever.  Pray that the peace of God will make true the promise of Isaiah that one day they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:4-5).

Countless are the numbers of people who lack a sense of peace in their lives and hearts.  The stress of modern life certainly makes peace a very elusive commodity in the hearts and minds of people. 

Christmas is a time to remember the least of these (Matthew 25:40,45). 
There seems, unfortunately, to always be money for warfare and weaponry. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will, it is estimated, cost us $4 to $6 trillion dollars.  That is absolutely staggering.

So much money spent on weapons to take life rather than to enrich life.

What a harsh sounding passage is this one from Matthew’s gospel.  But isn’t the condition of so many millions in our world a harsh reality?  Perhaps it needs to be a harsh passage to remind us of the horrific conditions of so many in our world.

So many struggle to provide the most basic of necessities.  While we give thanks for our blessings, let us also give of our resources to help those who are in need.

Christmas is a time to remember those who mourn. 
A number of years ago I had a stretch of years where I was called to a hospital on Christmas Eve or Christmas day every year, culminating in one year of being with a family in a funeral home on Christmas day.

Last Sunday was twenty-three years since my father passed away.  One of my favorite memories of him was during the Advent season, when he would sing O Holy Night at church.  My father had a beautiful tenor voice (which I did not inherit, unfortunately,) and it’s hard for me to listen to O Holy Night without feeling a twinge of emotion.

Many in our congregation, and community, will be spending their first Christmas without a loved one.  Loss is always with us, but it is certainly felt more acutely during Christmas.  Remember to pray for those who have lost loved ones this year and to offer them a word of encouragement.

Christmas is a time to remember those who are hospitalized or in nursing homes. 
My grandmother was in a nursing home when I was young.  I still have memories of visiting with her in that nursing home, and how hard it was for me to go there, and there were times I thought I didn’t ever want to visit in such a place ever again.  Ministry has taught me not only what a blessing it is to visit in the nursing homes and hospitals, but also how important it is that people in nursing homes are not forgotten, and how important it is to remember people in hospitals as well.

Hospitals and nursing homes can be very lonely places, and they can be especially lonely during Christmas.  Send a card or make a visit to someone who is in the hospital or a nursing home.

Many of my fondest memories from ministry come from spending time in a nursing home or hospital, listening to the stories of people’s lives.  I hear of your visits.  I hear from family members who are grateful for those of you who take communion to the nursing homes.  The families are very grateful their loved ones are remembered.  It is such a wonderful ministry.

Christmas is a time to forgive.
In the coverage of the passing of Nelson Mandela, there’s been one element of his life that has not received much attention, and that was his religious faith.  When he was elected president of South Africa in 1994, forgiveness, and its attendant reconciliation, became a cornerstone of his term.

At a special United Nations gathering to mark Mandela's 95th birthday in July 2013, Bill Clinton told a story about Mandela’s willingness to forgive.

Mandela was asked why he had invited his jailer to his inauguration and why he had brought members of the opposition parties into his administration.  Tell me the truth: When you were walking down that road, didn't you hate them? Clinton asked Mandela.  I did, Mandela responded.  I felt hatred and fear but I said to myself, “if you hate them when you get in that car you will still be their prisoner.”  I wanted to be free and so I let it go.

I’m going to assume that most of us have someone we need to forgive.  Maybe we all have someone to forgive.  For some, it may be that we need to forgive ourselves.  A cornerstone, a foundational principle of the gospel is that of forgiveness.

Think of ways to simplify Christmas. 
Our modern celebration of Christmas, with its rush of activity and expense, certainly stands in stark contrast to the simplicity of the first Christmas.  Perhaps there are ways we can step away from the complications of our modern Christmas and recapture some of the simplicity of the first Christmas.

Enjoy Christmas. 
The stress and rush of Christmas can be so overwhelming that we find ourselves wishing for it to be over.  This is one of the sad realities of our modern era, where we find ourselves breathing a sigh of relief when Christmas is over.  One Christmas, not long after Tanya and I were married, I was so tired of Christmas by the time that it arrived I took down our tree and pulled it to the curbside on Christmas afternoon.  I’m sure the neighbors thought I was a Scrooge, but I was ready for Christmas to be over.

Sometimes, we long for life to get “back to normal” after Christmas.  But the promise of Christmas is that life is no longer normal.  The arrival of the Christ child means that life, the world, and history are forever changed.

Enjoy the season.  Celebrate with your friends and family.  Allow the joy of Christmas to fill your heart and soul.  And from my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

December 1, 2013 - Two Very Different Kings

Matthew 2:1-8

Two Very Different Kings

One of Mark Twain’s classic stories is The Prince and the Pauper.  The story centers upon two young men.  The first is a young man named Tom Canty, a poverty-stricken young man who lived in London with his impoverished family.  The other is Prince Edward the VI, son of King Henry VIII.  One day the two young chanced to meet, and finding they looked identical, decided to change places.  The course of the story is very interesting, as they both gain a new perspective on life by trading places with the other.  Prince Edward, of course, in the end becomes a much better king because of his experience living on the street as a pauper.

This morning we study Two Very Different Kings, from the story of the magi’s arrival in Jerusalem, looking for Jesus.  In this story we find two kings – King Herod and Jesus, the King of Kings.  Herod could have used an experience similar to Edward the VI, because he was a brutal king.

What a contrast we find in King Herod and Jesus.  Both carry the title of king, but that is where the similarities end.   I want to draw some comparisons between the two kings this morning as we study this passage from Matthew’s gospel.

Jesus and Herod both had power, but very different types of power.
There is nothing quite like political power to draw people in and hold onto them.  Power, even more than money, is what people most desire. 

Herod began his political life at a fairly young age – in his early 20s – and was addicted to power. Herod was absolutely intoxicated with power and would do anything to keep it.  He reigned for almost 40 years, so he knew how to survive politically.

But Herod had become very distrusting and paranoid about challengers and potential challengers to his power, so he would go on murderous rampages.  He arranged the assassinations of one wife – his favorite, actually – her mother and at least three of his sons.  The Roman Emperor Augustus said it was safer to be one of Herod’s pigs than to be his son (Barclay, p. 29).  So when Matthew writes, in verse three, that not only was Herod disturbed to hear of the birth of a king, and all Jerusalem with him, there was very good reason for the people of Jerusalem to be disturbed, because Herod wielded his power ruthlessly.

Jesus stands in stark contrast to Herod.  Many of the words and deeds of Jesus had very strong political overtones, but he was never captivated by the use of political power to accomplish his mission and never aligned himself with a particular political party or point of view.    

I believe that we should have something to say about the issues of the day, but I also believe we must recognize the danger in aligning the gospel with a particular political persuasion or partisan position.  When people proclaim there is a Christian position on health care or defense spending or other political issues, I start getting nervous.  I think there are principles that we glean from Scripture, and those principles ought to guide us and remind us that we are to call our leaders to account to some basic principles that ought to be practiced. 

The prophetic tradition of Scripture, for instance, always pronounces judgment upon the tendency to favor the rich to the detriment of the poor.  It is important to remind those in positions of political power of the vulnerability of the poor and our calling and responsibility to see they are neither forgotten nor victimized.  The book of James says religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  Isaiah 10:1-3 says woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.  What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar?  To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

There are powers greater than political power.  On June 4, 1989 an historic photo was taken.  You may not remember the date, but you will remember the picture.  The Chinese government was cracking down on dissidents who were protesting in Tiananmen Square, and on June 4th tanks began to roll into Tiananmen Square.  The picture is of an anonymous young man who stepped in front of a row of tanks – and the tanks stopped.  When they tried to go around him, he again stepped in front of them and they stopped again.

That episode represents the real shortcoming of political power – in some ways it’s not all that powerful.  To trade spiritual power for political power is a negative trade-off. 

Without underestimating the sufferings of those living under political tyranny, we can say there is a greater power than the might of tyrants and dictators.  The God-given power of the human spirit to resist political tyranny creates an energy that has time and again brought down empires.  In our own lifetimes we have seen examples that perhaps we never thought were possible – the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union fell.  The power of the human spirit yearning for God-given freedom proved stronger than any political or military might that sought to control them.

Herod exercised a power based on fear, intimidation, subterfuge, tyranny, and military might.  Jesus exercised a power based on love, which means that, 

Jesus and Herod drew different responses from people.
People do not respond very well to coercion.  People loved Jesus and flocked to him; people feared Herod.  Historians record that as Herod knew his life was drawing to a close, he made a tragic decision.  Recognizing that few people, if any, would mourn his passing, he had a number of leading citizens arrested.  He gave the order that upon his death those individuals were to be killed, ensuring that the day of his death would always be a day accompanied by great mourning (Barclay).

Jesus never used coercion upon anyone.  Never.  Love neither seeks to control or to coerce people.  Again, this is one of the shortcomings of political power.  You can force certain things upon people but in the end you know that force is the only reason they listen and obey. 

One of the evidences of the power of Jesus was his ability to draw love and commitment from people.  Both Peter and Thomas pledged their willingness to die for Jesus (John 13:37; 11:16).

This is the difference between the cold and ruthless power of politics and the power of the love of Jesus – Herod was willing to take the lives of others to gain and hold his power; Jesus was willing to give his life to demonstrate the power of his love.
This means that,

Nothing much has changed; yet everything has changed.
That sounds like a contradiction, but it’s really not.

Some things don’t change.  People still worship power.  Kings, tyrants, and political leaders still seek to coerce people into doing what they want them to do.  They still find that force is necessary to get what they want from people and so the never-ending cycle of violence continues. 

When Herod assassinated a political rival there was another waiting in the wings; when he squashed an uprising in one area it popped up in another.  These things never change in terms of earthly power.

Here, though, is where we find the genius of the love of Jesus.  Things did change because of Jesus.  Though much appears to remain the same in the world, everything has changed.  The love of Jesus broke the back of oppression and hatred.  The remnants are still alive and active in the world but they will one day diminish and come to an end.  Millions of people now see a crown – a crown of thorns – as a demonstration of love rather than a symbol of tyranny and force.

But we mustn’t let things return to how they used to be.  You know how entropy gradually winds down the best of intentions, so we must continually remind ourselves that while nothing much has changed, everything has changed.

And if there is a manifesto to go with the kingdom of Jesus, the King of Kings, it is surely Philippians 2:1-12.  This is the Magna Carta, the Constitution, the Declaration, of the kingdom of God –

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of the others.
You attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should 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.