In the gospel this morning (Saturday) John gives us the scene in which Jesus is calling his first disciples:
Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow me."
Notice that Jesus challenges Nathanael, who has just called him" the Son of God, the King of Israel." At that time in First Century Palestine, these were messianic titles, and most Jews were impatiently awaiting the arrival to the Messiah, a military leader who would forcefully expel the occupying forces of the Romans. Over the years, the figure of the coming Messiah had bee combined with the notion of a new King David.
No wonder Jesus challenges Nathanael's titles, and invites him instead to look beyond the idea of an earthly king (a military, political leader) by saying "you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." At the end of John's gospel Jesus assures a worried Pilate, "my kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36). So, John presents us with a very different sort of King.
We're all familiar with Luke's portrayal of Jesus' birth in a stable, with a feeding trough for a cradle, a clear sign that this newborn babe is hardly what the world would call a king. Luke offers us a very different sort of king.
Jesus, the "King of Israel" who called Nathaniel, the "newborn king of the Jews" sought by the Magi in Matthew's gospel and adored by shepherds in a stable in Luke's account, our King challenges us, as his followers, to establish his kingdom on earth. Not a kingdom of power, wealth and prestige, but a kingdom of humility, service, openness to others, and boundless love that imitates the Father's love for all of humankind.
So, when we sing our Christmas songs about little King Jesus, let us hear those words as a challenge to imitate our Lord in his humble service and boundless love.