Advent and the King without Bling

Reflecting at Wine Before Breakfast last week
on the Israelites demanding for a “king like the nations,”
our beloved sister, Jacqueline Daley, memorably quipped,
“Kings love their bling.”

You don’t get kings without bling.

What else would you expect from a “king like the nations”?
What else would you expect from a strong arm leader
before whom you will sacrifice freedom and dignity
for the sake of security and national greatness?

Remember how it goes in 1 Samuel 8?

The king will take.

He will take your young men for his army,
for the munitions plants,
and as field workers for his agribusiness.

He will take your young women for the fashion industry,
for cooking his sumptuous meals,
for satisfying his insatiable sexual appetite.

He will take your resources, your wealth, your very lives.

That’s what these kind of leaders do.
They take, take, take and take some more.

And having made themselves unspeakably rich
from all of this taking,
they deck themselves out in bling.

Lots and lots of bling.
Lots and lots of gold everywhere.

Ostentatious displays of wealth.

The bling is so loud that it outshines everything around it,
and drowns out the cries of those who are oppressed
in this bling-obsessed regime.

Until a new king comes.

A new king who comes as a servant not a demagogue.
A new king who hears through the cacophony of the regime.
A new king who hears the whimpering moans of the heavy burdened.
A new king who will not discard those who are economically inefficient.
A new king who will not break those who are already so deeply bruised.
A new king who does not go for the loud and gaudy bravado of the old king.

A new king without bling.

That is the servant of the Lord that we meet in Isaiah 42.

A servant king without bling.
A servant king who will not grow faint or give up
until justice reigns,
the captives are set free,
all of creation sings praise,
and the bling king is toppled from his throne.

Kings with bling love extravagant and vulgar display.
Especially at parties for their rich and powerful friends.
The servant king likes parties too.
But his parties are for everyone.
And the meal begins very simply
with a loaf of bread and a jug of wine.

And then … well then more food comes out.

Simple but wonderful food.

Community food.

Food that everyone brings to the table for sharing.
Food that celebrates the coming of this king of justice.
Food that makes the heart sing.
Food that heals the bruised.
Food that gives life to those who are spent.

Call it the feeding of the 5000,
or call it the Agape meal.

Call it the church potluck,
or call it Christmas dinner with some hungry friends.

This Advent, let’s celebrate this servant king without bling.

You see, just because he has no bling doesn’t mean
that the dude doesn’t know how to party!

So set the table, friends,
for a banquet fit for a king without bling.

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian and the CRC Campus Minister at the University of Toronto. He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is entitled Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination.

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