The girl next door became royalty, a great honour, which comes with special responsibilities. We all watched the wedding with great interest, but that day was just the beginning of a new life for the Duchess of Cambridge.
A few months ago we saw William and Kate take on their first royal responsibility as husband and wife: they embarked on a royal tour of Canada and the northern USA. It wasn’t a holiday, but an important assignment, to represent the Queen herself and the British nation.
They were the Queen’s ambassadors, entrusted with her authority and the power to speak on her behalf. Royal visits are grand and significant affairs, but at Christmas we remember a royal visit with a difference.
Over 2000 years ago, in an insignificant town in Palestine, a royal tour like no other began. This visit had been planned from before the beginning of time. Though previous history references were made to it, when its time came, everyone seemed to be too busy to notice.
There was no crowd lining the streets — no decorations, brass bands, bank holiday, journalists and banquets. The BBC World Service was nowhere to be found. Politicians and world leaders were all at home, oblivious to the arrival of the greatest ambassador the world has ever known.
So unprepared was the small town of Bethlehem for its important visitor that there wasn’t even room for him! The first audience with him took place in a stable, surrounded by animals; the first visitors received were shepherds on their night shift.
There were indications enough that this ambassador was special though. His arrival was announced by a glorious choir of angels and a magnificent star in the sky guiding fascinated men from the east a great distance to meet him. I think you’ll agree, that’s more impressive than the front-page story of every newspaper!
It is true that few people think of the birth of Jesus Christ in these terms. Perhaps that’s because we misunderstand the purpose of his coming.
There had been many ambassadors sent by God to represent him before the birth of Jesus. God had appointed priests to deal with the sin that separated people from a holy God and prophets to tell them about the one who created and preserved them.
But these weren’t always the most effective representatives. For one thing, they were human and grew old and died, and God had to keep sending others to replace them.
Another problem, connected with being human, was that they were sinners. This meant that even though they were God’s representatives, they needed salvation.
They represented God in the way, perhaps, a policeman represents our Queen. He has authority, because he represents the laws of our nation, and acts to enforce those laws instituted by Parliament, but he doesn’t know the Queen personally.
But in Jesus Christ, God was sending the ultimate ambassador once and for all. Jesus is God’s Son and knows God the Father intimately. He knows his every thought. He and the Father are one, so when Jesus spoke he spoke with God’s authority.
Jesus didn’t just tell people about God, he showed the world what God is like. Throughout his life, he pointed all to God through his actions, speech and character. And he still does that today through the pages of God’s Word, the Bible. Unlike most ambassadors, Jesus didn’t just come to visit; he came for a special purpose.
His mission was to pay the price for sin once and for all, so that those who repent of their sins and give their lives to him would have access to God himself.
He accomplished this by living amongst normal people, ministering to them, and then dying on the cross in the place of sinners and returning to life three days later.
In taking the punishment for our sin, he opened the way for imperfect people to know a perfect God. And because he rose again, and now lives and reigns in heaven with God the Father, he will never need to be replaced like the priests and prophets of old. God will never have to do it again.
And there’s more good news! Just as Kate Middleton became an ambassador for the Queen through her marriage to Prince William, we also become God’s ambassadors when we become connected to Jesus.
When we are brought into God’s family, an amazing swap happens. Jesus represents us before God with his perfect life, and we become God’s representatives.
The Lord begins the amazing work of making us more like him. We won’t ever be perfect like Jesus in this life, but we can point others to the King of our lives.
I sometimes wonder why Jesus’ birth happened so differently from what we expect. Perhaps it’s because it was not the beginning of his life that was most important, but what he would accomplish through his death and resurrection.
William and Kate were adored everywhere they went on their royal tour, but for most of Jesus’ life he was despised and rejected. How will you respond to God’s ambassador? Will you accept him, or will he pass you by?