CLERGY CORNER: A performance worthy of a king

Posted on 21 December 2017 by LeslieM

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40 NRSV

I am not one to brag, but I was a part of a choir that performed for a king, King Olav V. I also had the privilege of performing for the crown prince and princess who are now the King and Queen of Norway.

My mother’s family is Norwegian and I attended a college in Minnesota, Concordia College, which was founded by my Norwegian immigrants. Because the Church of Norway is Lutheran, so is my alma mater. And there are still strong links between my college and the Kingdom of Norway. That is why, periodically, my college performs in Norway for the Norwegian royal family. And you can imagine that one may be humbled by an experience like this.

The performance for the king was simply a song we sang at the Ascension Day worship service in the Oslo Cathedral. He was a gracious old man who waved to us on his way out during the procession.

Crown Prince Harald and Princess Sonja attended a concert we performed for in a church near their residence outside of Oslo. Since then he has been crowned King Harald V. This event was far more memorable. And we were all starstruck by the fact that we were performing for a man who would be king.

The crown prince and princess sat in throne-like chairs in the center aisle right behind our conductor. They had the best seats in the house, naturally, and the others in attendance paid dearly for admission. We could see his facial expressions throughout the whole concert; and, as starstruck American kids, we paid close attention to those expressions almost as if they were the only thing that mattered.

The crown prince looked bored. It looked like he was doing us a giant favor by showing up at our concert. At times, he even looked inconvenienced. His wife smiled and was delightful, but we didn’t seem to be affecting the prince.

At intermission, we all commented on the prince’s demeanor. One of the choir members said: “Wait a minute, we are Americans. We don’t have kings. The crowd loves us. Let us sing to the crowd.”

One of our more faithful members said: “Better yet, let us give glory to God.”

Our focus shifted from the prince, who seemed bored and inconvenienced, to the actual people who came to hear the choir, the people who paid dearly to sit in the uncomfortable pews. Our focus shifted from the crown prince, who sat in front of us, to God, the true master of the house.

When I look back, I think our second half was better. I think the choir sounded better. The crowd was even more enthusiastic. And then something else happened, the prince began to smile.

It would be easy to dismiss the prince as a spoiled brat. After all, there are privileges that come with royalty. However, I give him the benefit of the doubt. I sincerely believe that a good prince understands that he is beholden to both his God and his subjects. I believe a good prince isn’t focused upon himself but upon those things that are bigger than him. And my relatives who live in Norway assure me that King Harald is a good king who truly does care for his people.

What does this have to do with Christmas? A King was born on Christmas. He wasn’t born in a palace but a stable. He wasn’t laid in a golden crib, but a manger. His birth wasn’t announced with trumpets outside of a palace, but by singing angels in the midst of shepherds. God went out of his way to shift our focus away from all of the things we associate with royalty to the very things that truly matter, God and the people God serves.

Had the Christmas story happened any differently, we could have been like a bunch of starstruck college kids caught up in tabloid hype. Rather, from the beginning, God shifted our focus to a place where it always should have been.

One of my favorite Christmas songs was written in Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. It was called “The Carol of the Drum” and was first performed by the Trapp Family singers in 1951. (Yes, the Sound of Music family). Its title has been changed to “The Little Drummer Boy.” And when the drummer boy plays his best, baby Jesus smiles.

How do we make the King of King’s smile? Matthew 25 tells us to shift our focus. Clearly, focusing on God’s people has always been a part of the story of Jesus. If we really want to make our King smile on Christmas, let us give our best to the least. Let us focus on the poor, the needy, those who are forgotten on Christmas. If we really want to make Jesus smile, honor God and all of God’s people.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit

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