By Pastor Steve Disher
December 26, 2010
In Matthew 2, we see the magi, the wise men, making their way to Bethlehem, and following the star.
They first make a stopover in Jerusalem to get directions. Undoubtedly expecting Jerusalem to be alive with excitement regarding the birth of a king, they were innocently asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 1.2)
Such questions caused no little anxiety for Herod. With the secret intent to destroy the One who might take his throne, Herod sent the magi to Bethlehem, instructing them to, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” (Matthew 1.8)
Two similar statements, two different intents.
Both the wise men and Herod said they wanted to worship Jesus, but the intent of their hearts, the area of our lives God examines, were totally different.
God moves wonderfully and mysteriously in our lives, examining our hearts along the way, seeking to transform those hearts and to turn those hearts toward Himself. When our human hearts have God as our focus, He is glorified. And God will be glorified. With or without our contribution, He will be exalted, lifted up, glorified.
It’s our choice to be participants in His exaltation or to refuse to exalt Him to our detriment.
God will be glorified and when He is, we are the beneficiaries.
He works in our lives through sometimes simple and sometimes complex circumstances to prove, I believe, that we are not in control. He is.
Consider the ironic twists of the wise men as they met Jesus…
– The wise men left the opulence of an earthly king and found poverty. But in that poverty they discovered the lowly, yet astounding birth of the King of Kings.
– The wise men followed a star and found a humble dwelling. But in that humble dwelling they found the One who made the stars and hung them in the heavens.
– The wise men came bearing gifts worthy of a king. But they found, in that Child, a gift worthy only of God.
In the mighty King Herod the wise men found confusion, fear and death.
In the Christ Child the wise men found life and light. They found God.
Only God can orchestrate such contradictions and cause them to fit perfectly in the performance of life.
After presenting the Child with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the wise men avoided Herod altogether, after being warned in a dream.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Matthew 2.13-15)
“Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Again, we see the hand of God at work …
800 years before Jesus was born, this prophecy was spoken…
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11.1)
On the surface, such a prophecy and its fulfillment would seem rather strange. “Out of Egypt I called My Son”? Why?
In both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, Egypt plays a unique and important role in the lives of the Jewish people.
On occasion, Egypt is a place of refuge and safety.
In the last chapters of Genesis, for example, Jacob and his sons found refuge in Egypt during a time of severe famine.
But Egypt also represents captivity, bondage, slavery.
430 years after Jacob and his sons arrived, the Israelites had become slaves in Egypt. Moses was then appointed by God to lead the chosen people out of Egypt and, thus, out of bondage.
In a negative sense, Egypt was a type, a symbol of bondage to fleshly desires.
The Hebrews proved this point: although Egypt was the place from which God led His people, once they began to experience the discomforts of desert life, they wanted to go back. The memories of leeks and garlic began speaking to them louder than the stripes of the whips and the pain of servitude. They preferred captivity to freedom.
The leeks and garlic were also symbolic of the sinful flesh.
The wanderings of the Hebrews in the wilderness is a story about us. We, too, prefer the bondage of sin to the discomforts of freedom through Jesus Christ.
Such bondage does not occur without our cooperation, our moment by moment, day to day choices.
In A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, we read the familiar story of Ebenezer Scrooge. One night, Scrooge’s deceased partner, Jacob Marley, wanders in for a visit. Around Marley’s neck and body, and dragging behind him was a very large and heavy chain. Scrooge asks Marley about the chain, and he replies:
“I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?… [Do you know] the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored on it since. It is a ponderous chain!”
Marley was saying, “It is an awkward, cumbersome, unnatural chain.” The weight he and Scrooge carried, was awkward and unnatural, they weren’t created to carry those weights. They needed freedom, but they were bound by their own choices and desires. They had forced themselves into a place of hopeless for the future.
Maybe you feel that way today.
In Galatians 5.1 Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
We need an injection of hope leading to freedom.
Hope, in the Greek, means “an expectation of good; joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.”
You will not find lasting, godly hope in the secular, in the pursuit of more stuff, in the pursuit of selfish desires.
The Toledo Blade reports…
“The evening news programs on the three major networks featured 527 stories about Christmas during the 2007 and 2008 holiday season, according to a study by the Culture and Media Institute. Of those, seven mentioned God or the birth of Jesus.
The CMI report, titled “Christmas Without Christ,” asserts that most Christmas stories on ABC, NBC, and CBS spotlighted the holiday weather, travel, retail sales, or the impact on the economy, mentioning “God,” “Jesus,” or “Christ,” only 312 times in 19 sentences over two years. (toledoblade.com/article/20101225/NEWS10/12240390)
Ironic isn’t it? In a world desperate for hope, the world seeks to silence the very Source of that hope.
The scriptures, however, speaking loudly and clearly…
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
But the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60.1-3)
When you think there is no hope … look to Jesus.
The Christmas of 1914 in WWI is legendary but true. The opposing armies had built defensive trenches with barbed wire and a “No-mans-land in between.” There was continuous shelling, machine gun fire and snipping. Frostbite was common and the trenches were often flooded. During an unofficial Christmas Truce which began on Christmas Eve, both sides received food and presents.
The Germans delivered a chocolate cake to the British proposing a ceasefire so the Germans could enjoy a concert. The proposal was accepted by the British who sent tobacco to the Germans. The opposing sides began singing carols…the Germans would sing Stille Nacht and the British would sing Silent Night.
Goodwill began to spread along the 27-mile British line. Enemy soldiers began singing songs and began meeting one another to talk and even play soccer.
It is said that this goodwill truce lasted past Christmas to New Years Day.
(eyewitnesstohistory.com/trenches.htm and etc.)
In the worst of conditions, in the worst of circumstances, when you think there is no hope…look to Jesus Christ. He is our hope. Our only hope.