Children meticulously check off the days as their Christmas excitement builds. Perhaps a little door is opened on the Advent calendar or a token is moved one step closer to December 25th as the days drag by. For those little ones the time before Christmas seems to crawl. For adults, though, busy with bulging “To Do” lists demanding more buying, wrapping, planning, and preparing, the days of December pass at the speed of light. Can we, with all the reminders around us, miss Christmas? Sadly, one group who possessed so many pointers to the coming first Christmas missed the event completely.
The story is given in Matthew 2 where a group of magi arrived in Jerusalem seeking the newly-born King of the Jews. With their knowledge and scientific arts these wise men noted the appearance of a star which alerted them to the birth. They had waited for years watching for the event of events, and the sign told them the birth had finally happened. The men embarked on a lengthy journey to find this King, celebrate Him with valuable gifts, and worship Him. (Note: although we include the wise men in our nativity sets their visit may have occurred as much as two years after the birth of Christ.)
The appearance of the wise men in Jerusalem with their staggering inquiries about the new King disrupted life for King Herod and his subjects. The city was abuzz with discussions about the visitors and the identity of the unknown King. Who was He? Why were strangers from the east the first to know of His birth? Herod, always concerned about keeping his throne, initiated an investigation and called in the group most knowledgeable about Judaism. If anyone should know about the King of the Jews it would be the chief priests and scribes, the leaders of Judaism.
The priests and scribes could recite the prophecies about Messiah, but the significance of the words never made it to their hearts. Unlike the wise men, the priests and scribes were not watching the signs and piecing together the prophecies to identify the Messiah. Had they heard the story from Bethlehem about a virgin giving birth? Isaiah, a revered prophet, had predicted that miracle hundreds of years before (Isaiah 7:14)? And what about Micah, a minor prophet indeed but a prophet no less, who had pinpointed Bethlehem as the place for Messiah’s birth (Micah 5:2)?
The priests should have paid attention, perhaps posted lookouts in Bethlehem to alert the home office of any unusual happenings. Surely, a group of shepherds claiming a visit from angelic messengers would qualify. The shepherds woke the whole town as they looked diligently for the angel’s promised sign, a babe lying in a manger.
Now men of wisdom who could not be discounted as odd balls stated their certainty that the Messiah had arrived. Can we see God’s grace at work in the story? The priests and scribes missed the birth and never connected the prophecies with the real events around them. God graciously offered another reminder through the magi. He gave another chance for the religious leaders to grasp the message and greet the Messiah. But the priests and scribes missed the birth announcement again. The record of Scripture indicates the wise men journeyed on from Jerusalem to worship the King and the religious leaders did not join the search. While Herod waited for his chance to kill Him, the priests and scribes ignored Jesus altogether.
The arrival of Christmas each year is God’s gracious reminder that He sent His only Son to be our Savior. The celebration of this season has exploded with add-ons, must haves, have to do’s and a wagon load of stress. Perhaps we have become a little like those priests and scribes and in our busyness we lose track of the true meaning of the event? It’s not too late to stop and consider and give thanks for the Son of God who came to be our Savior. Wise men and women still seek Him.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:8-14 KJV