My earliest memories are wrapped around me staring into the eyes of the Rev. Fred Rogers as he gently and wisely taught my pre-school brain lessons I carry to this day. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was must see TV — and my favorite character was a puppet named King Friday XIII.
King Friday was the ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. He lived in a castle. He was always busy creating ridiculous and random rules he expected everyone to obey. Before King Friday entered, a trumpet would announce his presence. He expected everyone to speak haughty and respectfully. After every statement, subjects would respond: ”Correct, as usual, King Friday.”
It was all make-believe though. And I knew it, even at only 4 years old. Friday had no actual power. He was nothing more than a puppet king.
There is a puppet king in the Bible, too. His name was Herod. Of all the people Caesar could have chosen to rule over Israel and keep them in line — Herod was the worst. He was sadistic, cruel, and ego driven. He was also brilliant — which is a bad combination!
Herod insisted the people refer to him as: Herod the great. Herod did all he could to appease Caesar Augustus, while keeping the Israelites in fear.
He built large palaces. He remodeled the desert to meet his needs. He overtaxed the people and kept the nation of Israel in poverty — while enjoying extreme extravagance.
Herod had a large family. Instead of loving them, he killed many, convinced they wanted to steal his kingdom.
This puppet king was about to learn: no matter how hard he attempted to hold on to his power, his days on the throne were numbered.
In the last round of this puppet king’s rule, a baby was born in a small corner of his kingdom. While Herod was busy counting his tax dollars and flexing his muscles, baby Jesus cried His first breath.
Jesus, the real King, grew up to live a life of humility and service.
Herod-the-puppet-king died in Jericho of a horrid illness, surrounded by his extravagant castles, fine clothes, and exotic foods. Today, Herod’s kingdom is nothing more than a little rubble and some interesting history. A fitting legacy of a puppet king.
On the other hand, Jesus never built a single building. Instead, the true King Jesus built into people. He built His Father’s Kingdom. As a result, more than 2000 years later, His legacy remains. His church is thriving and growing.
So this Christmas season, don’t worry when the puppet kings of our world get airtime and do their best to rewrite the true meaning of this holy season.
Instead, choose to walk with the One True King - who eventually puts all puppet kings in their rightful place.
“Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.” Matthew 2:1.
The Rev. Justin Ross is the pastor at The Refuge Baptist Church at Redfield.
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