by Dennis Michelson
Introduction: The so-called Christmas season has become a time of stress, domestic violence, increased suicides, rampant alcohol consumption, and general tension. There is more road rage for those driving and more family conflict simply because people are "forced" to spend time together.
As William Bendix used to say in the Life of Riley program "What a revolting development this is." All of this seems to stem from one's reaction to the Incarnation. That's right Incarnation. That is the biblical term for what we have manufactured into Christmas.
Any true observance of Christmas has at its heart the remembrance and appreciation of the Incarnation of the Savior Jesus Christ. In our passage we see three distinct reactions to the Incarnation and I would suggest that those same three reactions abound today. What is yours?
1. The Reaction of Herod (2:1-3)
The arrival of the promised Messiah threatened everything Herod had schemed for and desired as a political leader. The Baby Jesus - if the stories were true - was a potential threat to Herod's power and ambitions. His basic reaction was WORRY.
The Bible records the fact that Herod sought to kill Jesus before He could become a rival to Herod. Herod gave no thought to the collateral damage of innocent children being swept into eternity as a result of his murderous plot. Even though the carnage had been prophesied it was Herod's responsibility for carrying out the killing of the children.
It is important to note that Herod could kill as many innocent babies as he felt necessary but it was impossible for him to kill the Messiah. The same prophets who had predicted the weeping for the slain innocents also predicted the Messiah would grow and accomplish His mission in the salvation of His people.
Even the strongest and most evil political leader can only go as far as God will allow him to go. For some the Advent has become a Madvent because God's will is a threat to their own will. Read Acts 4:25-28. It was against the "Holy Child Jesus" that Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together.
What was this unruly murderous mob going to do - "Whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."(Acts 4:28) Be careful that you do not get sidetracked by focusing on reacting to the reaction of the political powers of our day. God has everything under control.
2. The Reaction of the Hypocrites (Matthew 2:4-6)
The reaction of Herod was WORRY. The reaction of this crowd of theological experts was WORK. To some, the birth of the Messiah simply means more work. I regret that there are many in the church who dread the Christmas season because it means more work! To this crowd there is no Advent - only Madvent.
Martyn-Lloyd Jones used to say that when Satan fell he landed in the choir loft! Some of the most bitter church disputes come over music, worship styles, and of course, the omnipresent Christmas Cantata! What a sad state of affairs when the most blessed time of the year becomes the most cursed time of the year because of so much work.
Read carefully this passage. These relgious experts knew all of the prominent and obscure Old Testament Scriptures regarding every detail about the promised Messiah. They made 100% on their theology but flunked their kneeology. How blinded they were by their religion to know the Scriptures but not know the Savior.
Where did they go after they helped Herod nail down the description, address, and distinguishing information about the Messiah - they went back to their studies and not to the manger. The Apostle Paul was right when he emphasized the vital importance of "knowing Christ" and not simply knowing about Him.
3. The Reaction of the Humble (Matthew 2:7-10)
These wise men have the right reaction to the Incarnation. They did not WORRY. They did not WORRY about the WORK. THEY WORSHIPPED HIM (Matthew 2:11) Much can be said about these men but their motivation in all they were doing was to worship Him. Check yourself. What does this time of year really mean to you. More worry? More Work? More worship?
Conclusion: We are commanded to remember the death of Christ but are not commanded to remember the birth of Christ yet we make so much of it. So much of what we do in the name of "Christmas" has nothing to do with the name of "Christ."
Whatever you do in word or deed let it all be done to the glory of God. You can know this is the case when your response to the Incarnation is one of worship.
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