The Christmas season is here, and it’s still the most wonderful time of the year!
It’s a time of lights and garland, friends and family, giving and receiving, holiday treats and parties! All things that I love!
But more than that, it’s a time to celebrate a unique birth that changed everything.
I happen to be a December baby, but I’m not referring to my birthday. Christmas is the time when we give special attention to the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We read the story about Jesus being born of a virgin and laid in a manger. We sing about the angels, shepherds, and wise men. Most of us have probably been an angel, wise man, or shepherd (maybe even one of the animals who witnessed the miraculous birth) in a Christmas play or two!
We’re so familiar with the story that we probably don’t give it the consideration it deserves.
But, there are some interesting pieces to this story, that we might not recognize because they don’t get a lot of attention. It’s easy to skim over some of the more interesting details of what happened following Jesus’ birth, but I believe we should take notice and learn from the events that happened next.
In Matthew 2, we’re introduced to the wise men, the Magi, who traveled from the east to worship Jesus, the King of the Jews. They followed a star and ended up before King Herod, who was not too happy to hear that he might have a rival for the throne.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. – Matthew 2:3-9
So, Herod called the all chief priests and scribes to inquire of where Christ was to be born. There answer comes without research or delay, quoting from Micah 5:2, they inform Herod that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem – a small community only six miles from where they stood.
Now, consider the scene and the setting: Herod was troubled, yes. But it’s interesting to note that the Bible says all of Jerusalem was troubled as well. Here was an entourage of important men from who knows where, speaking as if the long awaited Messiah had already been born.
This is the event they had talked about, dreamed about, and waited for. Every Israelite spoke reverently and hopefully of the day when the Messiah would return and assume David’s throne forever.
Yet, aside from the wise men from afar, no one seems to care enough to walk or ride to Bethlehem to see if it was true.
No one made the short trek to Bethlehem to see if these Magi were right.
Now, the average human walks at a speed of 3.1 miles per hour. Without much effort, you could walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in about two hours. If you had a donkey, camel, or horse, it could have been a lot quicker.
Still, no one went.
It’s amazing to me that the One they’d been waiting on for so long could have finally arrived, and for everyone in Jerusalem, it was simply life as usual. Emmanuel, God with us, was only six miles away, but out of the entire Jerusalem, who were troubled by the words of the wise men, went to see if their King had really come.
What could have possibly kept them from investigating the claims of these wise men?
Why didn’t they realize that the day they’d been taught about, talked about, and waited for had finally come?
Herod was convinced enough that Jesus might be a threat to his throne. When the wise men didn’t return to tell him where the child was, he murdered all of the children in Bethlehem and the surrounding coasts, 2 years old and under.
And even with that horrible bloodshed, it still appears as though no one stopped to wonder if the child the wise men sought was really the Christ.
Don’t be like those people!
In Luke 2, we meet two amazing people who held fast to the words of the prophets.
Simeon was an aging man with a promise that he wouldn’t die before seeing Christ (Luke 2:26). On the day Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple, Simeon was led by the Holy Ghost to go there as well.
It was a day like any other day, more than likely. But, something was happening in the Spirit, and Simeon cared enough to hobble down to the temple to check it out.
It wasn’t simply life and usual for Simeon. He wouldn’t accept life as usual.
Jesus was about to show up, and Simeon was paying attention! He wasn’t about to miss this opportunity to see (and hold) the Messiah his people had been waiting for so long.
Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. – Luke 2:28-32
Simeon became a part of the story that day.
Anna, another aging Israelite refused life as usual too. She was a prophetess, and was also sensitive to what God was doing. She “departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:37-38)
Anna shared the glorious news of the Messiah, and yet we have no record of anyone hearing her words and responding with worship to Jesus.
The King was in their midst, and they were oblivious.
I can easily end this by saying, “Don’t forget that Jesus is the reason for the season!” But, there is so much more to learn from this part of the Christmas story.
Jesus still shows up in our lives. On any given day, He shows up to forgive us, to heal us, to love us, to comfort us, to give us joy and peace and strength!
He calls us, gives us purpose, and wants to use us.
When Jesus showed up the first time, most of the people didn’t give it a second thought. They didn’t pause long enough to recognize the most significant event in history was taking place.
They didn’t search for Him.
Their hearts weren’t in it.
They had the knowledge of His coming. They talked about His coming. But when He came, they went about their lives as if nothing had happened.
Don’t be like those people!
When Jesus shows up in our life, we should drop everything for the opportunity to respond to the King.
How many church services have we endured half-heartedly, only to go on about our business. He was there, but we didn’t care enough to put our “life” on hold to respond.
How many prayer meetings have we glided through without genuinely putting our heart, soul, and mind into it. He was there, we just didn’t have the time, energy, or desire to connect with him.
Every single day, Jesus shows up in someone’s life to answer their prayer, to deliver them, to heal them, to call them… and everyday there are people who seemingly fail to notice.
Don’t be like those people.
Instead be intentional.
Be a wise (wo)man.
Be a Simeon.
Be an Anna.
Their hearts were engaged. They were sensitive to the Spirit.
And, when Jesus showed up, they were ready!