Christmas — the most anticipated, celebrated, advertised holiday of the year. To some, it’s a secular holiday, focused on giving and receiving, long in coming and short in true celebration, leaving little in its wake but exhaustion, debt, and disappointment.
To others like you and me, Christmas is one of the most precious times of year. Christmas reminds us that “today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully; for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”
Is it possible Christmas is more than one special day that celebrates Jesus’ birth? There must be more to it than “life as usual” after presents are opened, dinner is eaten, family and friends have returned home, and the house is put back in order. There has to be more joy from a December 26 than just having 364 shopping days until the next one!
Is our celebration of Christ’s birth supposed to be just a day or a season long? No, Beloved. Events that occurred not too long after Jesus’ birth point to something much greater. If we open our eyes and ears to the lessons in these events, what we discover can trigger a spiritual awakening in our lives that will endure throughout the year.
Matthew tells us things about the events surrounding Christ’s birth that we don’t find in the other Gospels. Though traditionally we place the wise men alongside the shepherds in our manger scenes, Matthew tells us that it was some time after Jesus was born in Bethlehem that the magi arrived in Jerusalem. These men from the East had seen His star and were looking for the One who had been born King of the Jews. Matthew leaves no doubt concerning why they journeyed: they came to worship Him. When Herod heard of the magi and the commotion their visit stirred in Jerusalem, he secretly summoned these men. Why? Because, he claimed, he wanted to go and worship Him. But Herod lied. He didn’t want to worship this Jewish Messiah at all; in fact, he wanted to destroy Him.
How foolish for Herod to think that he could fight against God — that he could stop events decreed from the eternal throne of the Sovereign Ruler of all the universe! After all, this birth was planned from before the foundation of the world. Matthew tells us:
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
But when Herod died….
What a profound lesson! When the magi and the king wanted to find the Jews’ Messiah, the chief priests and the scribes were able to tell them exactly where He was — the city of His birth had been chiseled forever into the granite of God’s Word.
Does it amaze you that Herod didn’t want to accompany them to see this One who had been born? It amazed me, until I recalled from Ecclesiastes that “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Some people don’t want truth unless there’s something in it for them.
If this Child the magi sought was really the King of the Jews, He would become a menace to Herod — a threat, not a hope! To preserve his status, Herod had to silence any truth — thisTruth! So he made plans. He spoke to the magi secretly. He lied about wanting to worship the Messiah. He schemed to destroy the One prophesied to be the true king of the Jews.
Herod missed Christmas, and worse — he actually attempted to destroy it! Because he thought life was “all about him,” he was jealous for his own glory and incredibly suspicious of others. Though old and sick, he would do everything necessary to squelch would-be usurpers of his kingdom. He would die for an earthly throne before embracing Eternal Life…who was just a short journey away.
How incredibly tragic…and violent! Herod’s cup of iniquity overflowed with the blood of any who threatened him, not just his enemies. Family members, friends, politicians — even Miriam, the wife he adored — were all killed because of his suspicions. The Savior of the world had been born, and Herod not only refused to worship Him but also added to his sins the most notorious of his crimes — the slaughter of all male children two years and under in Bethlehem, just to eliminate the possibility of future competition (Matthew 2:16-18).
For all this sensational notoriety, what is Matthew’s final comment on Herod’s life? “But…Herod died….” The majestic king who tried to kill God’s anointed died like every other man — in like a lion, out like a lamb!
But Jesus lived.
Magnificent evil, full of sound and fury, could not touch this baby (Rev. 12:4,5). Jesus lived out His life and died exactly when God had determined for Him to atone for sin. He rose from the dead and ascended to sit at the right hand of God, where He continuously makes intercession for us — for you, Beloved — by name. Soon He will rise from His Father’s throne, mount His glorious white steed, and charge to earth to reign not only as King of the Jews, but also as King of kings and Lord of lords!
After His reign of a thousand years, Death and Hades will give up their dead. The books will be opened, and the small and great (including Herod), whose names are not written in the book of life, will be consigned to the lake of fire for all eternity.
In light of these things, Beloved, don’t just prepare to celebrate Christ’s first appearance on earth in the flesh on December 25. Let’s prepare daily for His return. Let’s prostrate ourselves before Him in total submission, day in and day out, not just at Christmas.
Let’s give Him the gift of our complete adoration, laying every treasure we possess at His feet.
Beloved, this could be the most significant act of worship in your life. And if you do these things as a habit, you will experience spiritual renewal, unshakable joy, and multiplied peace, which God gives to those who willingly honor Him as He should be honored — as
God with us…Immanuel…our hope of glory!