How do you react to Christmas? | Third Space

How do you react to Christmas?

Christmas has always been controversial
Thu 10 Dec 2015

How do you react to Christmas?

There are many different reactions to Christmas these days, it was no different at the first Christmas, at the birth of Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel in the Bible, we see a number of different reactions to his birth and as usual, a person’s reaction to Jesus says perhaps more about them than it says about Jesus himself. We see three very different and revealing reactions to the news of the birth of the great King. The historicity of Matthew’s account can be understood if you read Paul Barnett’s book “Is the New Testament History?” [1]

1. The wise men.

The magi (traditionally “wise men”) who were almost certainly astrologers in one of the Eastern empires, saw a new star in the sky (probably a conjunction of two or more planets at multiple times) understanding the prophecy of the star and the birth of a king in Israel from the book of Numbers in the Old Testament, they set out on a journey of up to two years to find the one who had been born “King of the Jews”. Understandably, they went to the palace to look for the new king and were directed because of an Old Testament prophecy to the town of Bethlehem. They travelled, they looked for him, they worshipped him.

2. The second reaction from Herod the Great

the Roman puppet king, is also understandable. Herod was a paranoid tyrant who had members of his own family killed when he felt threatened. Did Herod believe the prophecy of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem? He believed it enough, or at least he thought that other people would believe it enough for it to be a political problem for him. And so, with his power and paranoia, he had all the babies two years old and under in the vicinity murdered. A terrible reaction, and yet given his character from history, understandable.

3. Thirdly, the strangest reaction of all is from the people of Jerusalem.

We’re told at the beginning of the chapter that they were troubled when Herod found out from the wise men about the birth of the “Messiah”. But from then on, the strangest reaction is that as far as we know, they did nothing. From Jerusalem to Bethlehem is only approximately 8km, (a two-hour gentle walk) and yet there’s no record of anyone having made the trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to check out whether or not the Messiah had actually been born. Why is it that there is no reaction? I suspect it’s the same as the problem today, they were busy. They had taxes to pay, families to care for, businesses to run etc. They were busy; it was Christmas time after all.

It’s a sadness today that Christmas, the first part of the word being “Christ”, is everywhere, for a couple of months all over our nation and yet the vast majority of people have no time to figuratively walk the 8km the Bethlehem and find out what he’s all about.

And so at City Bible Forum, each year we encourage people to pick up one of the gospels and allow the baby to grow up. The baby who grew up and taught with words like no one ever has, who walked on water, who healed the sick and who claimed to be able to forgive sin, and give us eternal life. I hope this Christmas, that you might be one who does take the time to find out about the king who was born in Bethlehem.

[1] Barnett, P (1986) Is the New Testament History? Hodder & Stoughton, Sydney

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