If you understand the title above, it’s because you know how to play poker.  If, on the other hand,   you’re scratching your head, let me give you a little worldly education.  In the numerous forms of poker, there are a variety of combinations in a five-card hand that form a hierarchy of which hand beats another.  Without getting too technical, let me assure you that three-of-a-kind always beats a pair.

In poker, that is.  In real life, there’s a central drama in human history that totally turns the tables.  Every Christmas we see images of The Three Kings bowing in awe and worship before The Holy Pair, Jesus and his virgin mother.  Humble as they are in their temporary stable shelter, Mary and her Baby hold the winning hand, and The Three Kings know it.

Another King, Herod, knew it as well, and he tried to enlist The Three Kings to make four-of-a-kind.  But even that combination of impressive human rulers would not beat The Pair.  God had declared them to be Trump* over all the forces of oppression and control.  King Herod tried to bluff with a power demonstration including infanticide, but the attempt failed and backfired on him.  God had gone all in with The Holy Pair, and he was totally committed to this surprising unorthodox strategy.

The memory of that kingly encounter faded, as The Holy Pair traveled to Egypt, where they stayed  for a while for their safety.  When they returned to their home town, The Three Kings were long gone, and King Herod was dead.  The Holy Pair settled down into the life of a carpenter’s family, in a home that was a far cry from a royal palace.

It was three decades later, and the Baby was now a Man in his prime.  He began to say things publicly that challenged religious and political leaders who abused their authority. These new “Kings” were not about to bow to this upstart, and they determined to destroy him.

It was when Jesus was hanging on the cross that we last see The Holy Pair together. He has a royal crown on his head, but it is made of thorns.  She looks up at him with helpless maternal love.  It appears they are the ones who have been trumped.

But once again The Holy Pair (God’s Son engulfed in humanity) beats The Three Kings—or however many “Kings” line up against him:

At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

It turns out that the crown of thorns represents a higher authority than all the crowns of gold and silver put together.

— Pastor George Van Alstine


* I know there’s no trump in poker, but give me a little poetic license.