Thursday, December 13, 2012

Responses to the Redeemer

I love Christmas. It is my most favorite time of year. The glow of the Christmas tree. The smell of hot cocoa and my new cinnamon candle. The wonderful harmonies of The Messiah flowing through my home. The warm, snuggly scarves and sweaters. My two little girls running through the house in their Christmas pajamas and asking repeatedly with much anticipation, "Is it Christmas, yet??" I love it all. I even love the hustle and bustle of shopping for just the right gift. Tis the season.

But if I'm not very careful, I will allow all of these charming sights and smells and sounds to lure me away from the true meaning of this yearly celebration. Christmas is not about going to parties and putting up decorations and finding the perfect present at the best price. As we enter this time of year, we rejoice in the fact that God sent His one and only Son to earth as a baby, in order to live a sinless life and become the perfect sacrifice on our behalf.

Nestled within the account of Jesus' birth in the book of Matthew is the story of the Magi. In Matthew 2:1-12, we are told that these wise men came from the east, asking about the new infant king of the Jews. They saw His star and they wanted to see Him with their own eyes. As they searched for the child, they encountered others that did not seem to share their excitement about this bundle of true joy.

The Magi went to Jerusalem, assuming that the royal descendant would certainly be found there. When King Herod heard of their inquiries, he was immediately troubled by this information. (Matt. 2:3) You see, Herod was both cruel and paranoid. He was so determined to hold on to his crown that he was willing to kill his wives and sons because he was terrified that they would overthrow him. Scripture says that "all of Jerusalem" shared in his distress, for the people were aware of his brutality and they were mostly likely afraid that he would make them bear the brunt of his anger. The truth is that Herod didn't want to worship the Christ child. He wanted to kill Him. Herod responded to the birth of Christ with animosity. There are those today who also respond to Christ with hate-filled hearts. They desire to destroy any and all worship of the one true God. It is becoming increasingly more dangerous to share Christ with this lost and dying world. We must be bold to proclaim the truth.

In the story of the Magi, we also come into contact with the chief priests and scribes. The chief priests and scribes, along with the other lay elders, made up the Sanhedrin, which was the central Jewish authority under Herod's rule. These were the men that knew the prophecies about the Messiah and yet seemed to pay little attention to the Magi and their quest to see the newborn king. Instead of searching alongside the wise men, they fade into the background of the story. The chief priests and scribes responded to the birth of Christ with apathy. Many in our culture have an attitude of indifference about the birth of Christ. Christmas is more about toys and food than about celebrating the Savior. We must focus our minds on Christ and not allow our hearts to be divided.

The Magi followed the star and found "the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him." (Matt. 2:11) These Gentiles, who were considered separate from God, exhibited an openness and a reverence toward Jesus that His own people had not embraced. The Magi presented three gifts to the Christ child - gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Some say that the gold represented His royalty, the frankincense represented His divinity, and the myrrh represented His death and burial. The wise men responded to the birth of Christ with adoration. As believers, this season should draw us closer to the heart of God as we remember all that He has done for us through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We must offer Him our praise and rejoice in His great love and kindness toward us.

What is your response to Christ this Christmas? Does the season awaken feelings of animosity, apathy, or adoration in your heart? I want to challenge you to truly worship Christ this Christmas and seek to find ways to share the gospel with those around you who may have never heard.