December 21, Matthew 2:1-12
By Bob Johnston, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Rolla
I have always been fascinated with the contradictions so apparent at Christmas. We speak of the joy of this season, and yet some lonely souls experience this as the most depressing time of the year. We hear the cry "peace on earth" while expressing prayer and concern for our troops. Christmas is a time of gift giving, with many receiving extravagant gifts while others receive no gifts. And as we gorge ourselves at Christmas time, some in this world would love to have our leftovers.
Christmas contradictions. Matthew doesn't let us miss the fact that the first Christmas was filled with contradictions. Verse 1 declares Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod — a newborn king and a neurotic king. As the chapter unfolds, the contradictions increase. Non-Jewish Magi came bearing gifts, while those who should have embrace the Savior turned their backs. A chapter that declares the greatest news the world has ever heard also records the anguish of mothers as Herod brutally kills their children in an attempt to exterminate the gift of Christmas.
We do well to heed this passage. The Magi represent the longing for the Creator of the universe to intervene in this world. The extravagance of their gifts to Jesus, culminating in the giving of themselves through worship, represents the best we can give. That is a far better response than Herod, whose actions represent a stinginess of spirit and an emptiness of heart. Both the dangers and delights of the Christmas season are found here. Enter Christmas without expecting to glimpse God, and we only go through the motions. On the other hand, seek the Lord with all our hearts and give of ourselves, and then we experience delight and thanksgiving as we celebrate the greatest gift of all.