In the United States, Christmas has become two distinct events with some overlap. On the one hand, for a growing majority, Christmas is a commercial event. A time for retailers to increase their sales. And a time for consumers to go into debt buying gifts and decorating their houses. On the other hand, there is a diminishing minority who use this time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Remembering one who was born over 2000 years ago. Born to live among us and then to die for us. Emmanuel, God with us.
There are a variety of responses to the remembrance of Jesus’ birth today, just as there was 2000 years ago. Some rejoice. Some respond with animosity. And others with indifference.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:Matthew 2:4-6 NIV
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
The chief priests and teachers of the law represented the established religious leadership of Jesus’ day. They were well educated, especially in the Jewish Scriptures. These men were consulted by King Herod when the Maji showed up looking for the newly born King of the Jews. They were quite easily able to identify, from the Scripture, where the Messiah would be born. And they probably were aware of the significance of the prophecies of this king. Yet there is no indication that they had any interest in seeking him out for themselves. Instead, it seemed only a matter of passing concern. And they went on with their lives.
And that is like the response of many people in our world today to Jesus’ birth. They know some details of Jesus’ birth. And recognize that Christmas is connected to Jesus’ birth. But it is a matter of indifference to them. It has little, if any, impact on their daily lives. Or in the way they celebrate Christmas. It’s not that they have any negative feelings about it. They are just indifferent.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.Matthew 2:9-11 NIV
The Maji represent a different response to the birth of Jesus. They had made a long, and potentially dangerous, journey to find him. Other than a newborn King of the Jews, I have no way of knowing just what they sought. But I do not doubt that they looking for something more than just another king in waiting. Their joy in finding him, and the expensive gifts they presented, imply something much greater. Surely they understood something of the significance of this infant whose star they had seen.
Many today are still able to look beyond the trapping of a secular holiday and see “the reason for the season”. We remember when God clothed himself in flesh and was born some 2000 years ago. Born in humble circumstances with a feed trough as his first bed. We celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. Not just as a figure in a manger scene or passion play. But as our Messiah, Savior, and Redeemer. And we honor him with all we are.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.Matthew 2:16 NIV
A third response to the birth of Jesus is represented by King Herod. Herod was sensitive to any perceived threat to his own rule. Even so far as to kill members of his own family that he suspected of attempting to replace him. So it is no surprise that he acted swiftly and ruthlessly concerning Jesus. If he was a threat, he must be eliminated. Even if it meant that many other innocent lives would be lost.
And Herod has many today who are like-minded. Not ruling over kingdoms. But ruling over their own lives. And unwilling to tolerate anyone or anything who would make some claim to that rule. And that is the threat that Jesus is to them. If he is real, and who he claimed to be, then he is a threat to our way of life. And many take that threat seriously and seek to destroy him. Or at least remove any public mention of him. And that includes eliminating him from Christmas, including the name of the event itself. Replacing it with x-mas, seasons greetings, or happy holidays.
Follow the Maji this Christmas
I have nothing against the giving of gifts at Christmas. Or decorating the house in celebration. Both of those can be useful. In remembering the gift God gave to us. And in remembering the specialness of the time. But those should be secondary to remembering the King born in Bethleham over 2000 years ago. Follow the example of the Maji this Christmas. Give to Jesus the best that you have; yourself. Remember him, not just as a baby, but as Emmanuel, God with us. Celebrate Christmas this year with a heart filled with joy because of the very great gift God has given to us.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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