J.R.R. Tolkien tells the tale of a ring so powerful that, should it fall into the wrong hands, the world would plunge into darkness. Lost underground for ages, it finally made its way into the hands of a noble young hobbit, Frodo Baggins, charged with delivering it to the only place where it could be destroyed, the fires of Mount Doom. His epic journey there and the help he received is a classic story for the ages. Before Gollum's greed eventually sealed his own and the ring's destruction, the ring of power, which had destroyed so many, even almost consumed brave Frodo in the end.
History tells of a man who rose to become president of a great young republic, yet, when offered the chance to continue his run of power, declined. George Washington, who once famously said, "I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world," retired quietly to his Virginia farm, sadly but all too correctly predicting that, "unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government."
Little did Washington know how right he would be, that, hard as he and his fellow founders tried to create a constitutional system of government full of the checks and balances meant to protect against the tyranny common in seemingly all other nations, thanks to the inevitable and all-too-human lust for power and control it would only take a couple of hundred years for their vision of a limited government of and by the people to fall apart.
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Power is, indeed, a scary thing. From politicians, to business executives, to fast-food shift managers, most everyone wants more than they already have – until the thirst and lust for it becomes unquenchable, a black hole on the souls of those who allow it to consume them. Frodo, like so many others in fictional Middle Earth, succumbed. Washington avoided the siren's call, but he is one of the few in history. Most who obtain power, whether through revolution, war, heredity, riches, or elections, tenaciously hold onto it until death or military or electoral defeat. Few wield it nobly or responsibly.
Sadly, those who long for power over others gravitate to positions where they can obtain and exercise it, often in tyrannical ways. From the evil kings, generals and dictators of old to the Communism and Nazism of the past century, history is filled with mass murderers who committed their crimes under cover of State, often in the name of the public good. Sadly, there was no Frodo to carry their rings of power to Mount Doom.
But, there is hope. The Bible tells of someone who had more power than any of us could ever imagine, the power to create and destroy stars, planets and entire universes. And yet, He was willing to give up all that power to humble Himself, to become a lowly man like us.
Born of a common woman, placed in a stable's animal feed trough, worshiped by the lowest of the low summoned from their sheep-watching duties, the surroundings of the King of Kings was conspicuously absent any "kingly" trappings. He grew up a carpenter's son in a town, Nazareth, known for producing nothing of value (John 1:46). He was reviled and persecuted, eventually suffering the most humiliating and painful death mankind could dream to do to his fellow man.
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Hanging on that cross, the blood dripping from his body, Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe, the Lord of everything, the Prince of Peace could have called ten thousand angels to destroy those who stood and mocked him. At any time, he could have asked the Father for the power He willingly gave up, but He didn't. Instead, He rose again on the third day so those of us who believe on Him could one day be with Him for eternity.
On this Christmas Day, the day Christians celebrate our Savior's birth despite the tenacious efforts of a society determined to forget, in a world where mankind has completely abused the power we have been given, might the answer to our problems be to emulate, not banish, the One who willingly gave up all His power for a creation in dire need of a Savior?
"It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors." (George Washington)