Every December, we read stories, sing songs, and decorate our homes to celebrate the advent of Christ. But these things alone won’t bring us closer to God. Instead, we should consider how the Christmas story changes us and apply its true meaning to our lives.
Most people fall into one of three categories when it comes to the true meaning of Christmas. Some are neutral towards Jesus, interested in their own goals and unconcerned with the miraculous story of Christ’s birth. Others will be overtly hostile toward the name of Jesus and all He represents. Only a few will truly worship Him this season.
Let’s consider these three reactions in light of the characters and events presented in Matthew 2:1-12.
The Jewish authorities represent how most people feel about Christ’s birth—neutral. Many people expected a great leader would arise to deliver God’s people from Roman oppression. Although the authorities knew the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:4-5), they made no effort to find out more information from the magi or worship Jesus themselves.
Today, that’s how many people feel towards Christ. They ignore the true significance of His birth. At Christmastime, they talk about shopping, crowded malls, traffic, great sales, and their own wish lists—or they discuss their vacations, holiday meals, and good times they will enjoy as a family. They don’t feel antagonistic towards Jesus; their focus is just on other things.
King Herod demonstrated the second type of response people can have regarding the Savior. Herod the Great was a shrewd, cruel Roman king. The Jews hated him for claiming to be one of them because he was an Edomite, one of their ancient enemies. He ruled as a tyrant, killing several of his sons, his wife, and anyone else who threatened his power. That’s why should come as no surprise that “he was troubled” when he heard of a new king (Matt. 2:3). When the magi didn’t report to him after visiting the Messiah, he ordered the slaughter of all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem and the area surrounding it (Matt. 2:16).
Today, there are still people who react with animosity towards Jesus Christ. Some fight to prevent manger scenes at Christmastime and to silence all mention of Jesus in the workplace, schools, or other public settings. Like Herod, they are motivated by fear. They are afraid of losing their liberty, so they strike out at godly people who want to live righteously under upright leaders. However, as you and I know, the only true liberty is to be released from the shackles of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross. That’s why followers of Jesus need to speak up. If we don’t proclaim the name of Christ, we will continue to lose our freedom to do so.
The magi represent a third group of people—those who choose to honor Jesus. Matthew 2:11 says, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” These wealthy, highly educated men believed Jesus was king of the Jews and fell on their faces in reverence. They brought Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).
Gold was the most valuable metal of the time, a gift fit for a king. They also brought frankincense, which was used by the temple priests to sprinkle the altar of sacrifice. It symbolizes that Jesus came not to be served but to serve (Matt. 20:28). The third gift was myrrh. It was primarily used as a burial spice to mask the smell of decay (John 19:39-40). It spoke of Jesus’ divine mission—to give His life to bring salvation to humanity.
The magi’s last act of worship was to listen to and obey God. He warned them not to return to Herod, so they went home by a different route.
God still calls us to adore Christ today. True worship is primarily an attitude of the heart rather than outward actions. Therefore, this Christmas, make sure to take time to honor Him with your life and words, and let the beautiful story of Christ’s birth motivate you to worship the One who died so that you might have eternal life.
Copyright 2011 In Touch Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org