Three responses for Christmas
In India, many celebrates are considered gods and goddesses. Even when they are alive, shrines are built for them by their devotees or fans. It is interesting that fellow human-beings could upgrade their own to a higher status of deity, similar to electing Presidents or Prime Ministers. However, Christmas is the great intervention of God in human history. In fact, God downgrades himself to become human to save humanity.
Even without the consent of a celebrity, he or she could be upgraded to and perceived higher status. But, it is not possible to downgrade someone without his consent, when that person is all powerful, almighty and creator. God the creator, makes a deliberate, voluntary and joyful to choice to take the form of his own creature, man so that he could redeem humanity from the Sin, Satan, Slavery and death. There is no force in heaven or earth that could compel or threaten him to become man. God’s love for us made him to do this magnificent sacrifice. In the gospels, the birth of Lord Jesus Christ was proclaimed, announced and it also spread from one person to the other. There were three kinds of responses: Awe and Worship; Adverse reaction and Apathy.
Wise men from the East
Matthew writes: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘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.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.(Matthew 2:1-12)
The Wise men saw a Star and followed that to reach Jerusalem searching for the New Born King. These wise men were not from the Children of Israel, but from the Eastern part of the world. Mathew says that they were wise too. That means they were learned and by their search, research and study were seeking for a Saviour and the King. Their reason suggested that the King should be born in a palace. Hence they turned towards the palace of the reigning king: Herod. Herod summoned religious leaders to find out the location of the New Born King. They found it effortlessly and the wise men went to Bethlehem to worship the Son of God.The wise men responded with awe and worship; king Herod became an adversary and wanted to kill the child; while the priests and scribes were apathetic, unconcerned and indifferent.
- Apathetic religious leaders
The Wise men reached Jerusalem and created a commotion. Their unannounced and unscheduled arrival made Herod and the citizens of Jerusalem to wonder. When Herod heard that a special or unique child was born within his jurisdiction, and these wise men took all pains to visit the infant, he was troubled. That means he was worried, concerned and even paranoid. He immediately summoned the Chief priests and Scribes who were experts in the spiritual and religious issues. Apathy means indifference or lack of concern or enthusiasm. (Mathew 2:4-6) As a matter or routine or mundane query from King Herod, they gave an answer. They quoted from Prophet Micah that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. After that we do not read about them in the gospels. Most probably, they were paid for their duty and they simply returned home.
The Chief Priests and the scribes should have gone ahead of the Wise men to worship the New Born King. The distance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is 6 miles or 7.1 kilometers. They were well versed in the Law and Prophets. In fact, they could pick up the right text from the hundreds of scroll collections. They had knowledge about God, Law, Covenant and Prophecy, but they failed to apply the knowledge by faith in the day-to-day lives. For them, these religious knowledge and training was just for survival and sustenance. For them, religion and Word of God was just ritual.
Even the presence of foreigners in Herod’s court failed to provoke their interest or faith. They were totally indifferent religious elite or professionals of that time.
- Adverse Political leader
King Herod was troubled when he heard the message that a King is born in his geographical jurisdiction. Herod was clever but also selfish. He was threatened by a New Born King. It was more so, because the infant could attract a delegation of diplomats from a foreign nation in the East. More than the Wise men, Herod was very particular to know the exact place of birth. Herod was clever enough to summon the right people to get the right answer. Without much toil and efforts he got the answer.
King Herod enquired when exactly the Star appeared from the Wise men so that he could know the time of birth. He also wanted the Wise men to come back and report to him of their visit. His intention was not to worship the New Born King but kill him, his rival or competitor or enemy. He was selfish and thought he will be ruler for long. His political power and ambitions did not give him room to think about spiritual aspects of life. He was unrighteous and wicked, so, later he sent his soldiers to kill all the male infants below two years. (Matthew 2:16) God lead Joseph and Mary to go to Egypt as refugees and thus Lord Jesus Christ was saved from the hostile attack of Herod.
- Awe and Worship
The wise men went to Bethlehem and worshipped the New Born King. These wise men travelled in the ancient days, most probably in caravans of camels crossing forests, rivers, nations and deserts to worship the Lord. Faithful seekers who were willing to sacrifice, suffer and lose to gain the eternal blessings. They also offered: gold and frankincense and myrrh. Their gifts were also symbolic their spiritual understanding and discernment. Gold denoted that Lord Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Frankincense denoted that Lord Jesus Christ is the deity, the Son of God. The myrrh symbolized the purpose of Lord Jesus Christ Incarnation; i.e. redemption through his death and resurrection. The Wise men response was awe and worship. The shepherds also responded with awe and worship when angels announced that the Saviour is born in Bethlehem. (Luke 2:1-20)
The choice before us
Christmas reminds the love of God for humanity, the love of Lord Jesus Christ who chose to suffer humiliation and death for humanity. The world is divided into three categories of people. There would be always adversaries like Herod who desired to destroy Lord Jesus and God’s plan of salvation for humanity. There are other kind of people who are religious, pious and knowledgeable. Nevertheless, they do not go further to appropriate the Truth and live accordingly. Certainly, there are the third kind like shepherds and wise men, who processed the information and arrived to the place of awe and worship. Which group do I find myself today?