HE EXCITEMENT OF THE RESIDENTS OF THE EMERGENCY HOUSING ON Rotterdam’s waterfront was palpable, and as a 6-year-old I was totally caught up in it. The king was coming! A real live king, not just a make-believe, fairy-tale king.
King Leopold of Belgium would arrive on his royal yacht at the Wilhelmina Kade, where our rundown tenement stood like a blot amid the warehouses that surrounded it. He would come there, see our deplorable plight, and wave his wand to magically transport us from our filth and squalor to a land of bliss and beauty. At least, so I thought.
To us, the cast-offs of society, it was immaterial that he was just passing through on his way to the coronation of Queen Juliana. Surely he did not want to see us continue living in poverty. He was a king. He was noble. He had compassion. He would raise us out of our misery. He would . . .
Before the first light of day people started lining up along the warehouses and the glass-shard-topped walls of the solitary factory, hoping for a chance to see royalty. Being small, ?I was pushed farther and farther back, yet I still managed occasionally to squeeze through between people’s arms and legs to get to the front of the crowd.
We had been there for hours already, hot and thirsty, when shouts went up. “Here he comes!” “The king is coming!” “I can see him!” Some kind soul made room for me to slip to the front again so that I could see too.
Nothing can describe my disappointment. Instead of a monarch decked out in royal regalia, I saw a man in a business suit. Instead of riding on a snow-white charger, he rode ?in a black sedan. And instead of stopping to help us, he seemed to be unaware that we were there. I had waited for hours, enduring great discomfort, and for what? For an ordinary-looking man in a business suit, who was totally oblivious to the fact that he had just dashed my hopes and broken my heart. With tears blinding my eyes I pushed my way to the back of the crowd, to distance myself from the source of my disenchantment.
More than 2,000 years ago God’s people also waited for a King, one who would deliver them from the degradation of Roman bondage and restore them to the rank that they had enjoyed under David and Solomon. They had high expectations of this Monarch, whose coming had been repeatedly foretold by the prophets. Yet when He finally arrived, His people rejected Him because He did not come as they thought He would.
Instead of a palace, He was born in a stable. Instead of surrounding Himself with courtiers, He
mingled with drunkards, tax collectors, prostitutes, and every other type of despised sinner. Instead of freeing the Jewish nation from Roman bondage, He came to free everyone from the bondage of sin. Instead of setting up an earthly kingdom, He laid out the principles of a heavenly kingdom that would never end.
When King Leopold drove along the Wilhelmina Kade, it was a onetime event that benefited no one. But when the King of the universe left His throne and came to this world, He brought salvation to all who would accept it. He mingled with us, touched us, healed us, and made it possible for every one of us to become a son or daughter of God.
Before leaving this dreary, sin-sick world and returning to His Father, Jesus, who identified with us completely, said, “I will not leave you as orphans. . . . In my Father’s house are many rooms. . . . I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:18, 1, 2).
The first time He came as a helpless Baby, but when He comes again it will be as the triumphant King of kings, in His Father’s glory, and surrounded by all the adoring angels of heaven.
That is something worth preparing and waiting for.
Elfriede Volk, married with four children and several grandchildren, writes from Summerland, British Columbia. This article was published October 22, 2009.