The most important word in Christmas is not ‘for’ but ‘with’ (“God with us!”). Between them is vast difference. Only by being ‘with’ us does God deliver us. Only by being ‘with’ others (not just ‘for’ them) can we participate in their deliverance.
In Jesus’ day, as in ours, there were lots of expectations, social and political, swirling around the coming of Israel’s King. But what rode into Jerusalem that day was something else – something uninvited and underwhelming – such that everyone missed it. We still do. Now as then, even those shouting “Hosanna” seem oblivious to the subtle correction of Jesus to our expectations: “Our king comes to us righteous and having salvation . . . (but) riding on a donkey,” (Zech. 9:9; Jn. 12:15). The message is clear, and maybe we’ll see it “only after Jesus is glorified,” (Jn 12:16). Jesus is the savior of the world and he is able to do this from a minority position. Even today God enters the imperial city . . . riding on a donkey.