Christmas Lover, Hater, or In-Betweener
I know people who are like Buddy in "Elf"; they don't think it possible to do too much for Christmas (and it is never too early to start decorating or listening to Christmas music). I also know some Scrooges who start dreading Christmas eleven months before it arrives. Most of us "normal" people are somewhere in-between. Let's connect those to "the first Christmas."
I love the different parts of the Bible's "Christmas story" ... from the Old Testament prophecies of the future Messiah to the different perspectives of the actual birth / early days of Jesus in the New Testament gospels. One of the stories that fascinates me most is the account of the Gentile magi (wise men) coming to find the Jewish Messiah; it is recorded in Matthew 2.
There is an obvious "Christmas hater"—Herod the Great, the king of the Jews; he had been king for nearly 40 years at the time of Jesus' birth. When told that the wise men had come to Jerusalem asking, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" (v2)—and they weren't looking for Herod—he devised a plan to use them to find this new usurper "king" so as to have him killed. Although he had done a number of good things for the Jewish people—famine relief, building projects (including great improvements to the temple), state management, etc.—in his later years he had become very paranoid and wasn't ready to abdicate the throne to someone else.
There are also some "in-betweeners" and they are the most amazing people in the story, in my opinion. They were "all the chief priests and scribes of the people"; I would think that if anyone was interested in the birth of the Messiah king it would be these people—they were the most knowledgeable of the Scriptures. In fact, we read that when Herod consulted them to see if they knew of any prophecies of the birthplace of the Messiah, they were quick to respond, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet, 'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel'" (vv5-6 quoted from Micah 5:2). How could they know what the Bible said ... and hear that some wise men were indicating "the time is now" ... but they themselves seem to have made no effort to go look for themselves. Unbelievable!
There are also "heroes" in the story—the magi / wise men(probably astrologers who could have been acquainted with Jewish scriptures, such as Numbers 24:17). They had made a long, arduous journey and were not going to be denied their opportunity to present "their treasures" (v11) and to worship Jesus. And to think, I know people who can't make it to church if they had a busy week or it is raining or the ball game was on late Saturday night! (I better stop right there.) The wise men were sensitive to the light God had given them in coming and left, after being warned by God in a dream, to return to their own land without cluing Herod in on where to find Jesus. Three cheers for them!
Now, back to where I started; I am not so concerned about how you feel about "Christmas" (the shopping, extra demands on time, etc.) as much as the priority that the worship of Jesus has in your life and mine. Most of us aren't haters, for sure, but do we act a lot like the apathetic "religious" people who knew the Scriptures but didn't do anything with them? The Bible says that even if we know, from God's word, what to do, but don't act on it, we are deceiving ourselves that we are people of the book (see James 1:22). I hope these verses help us refocus on the priority of the Christ of Christmas this year.
All Scripture quotations are from The English Standard Version (ESV) by Crossway. Used by permission.