One of the greatest tragedies with the Christian calendar is that we only tend to explore the nativity accounts once a year. It is great that we are now approaching this important season and are presented with this scene surrounding Jesus’ birth.
And it is helpful to reflect on the response to the news of Jesus’ birth from the various characters in the nativity accounts. Some greeted these events with worship while others with opposition or indifference.
Maybe this was partly because the Old Testament portrayal of the coming Messiah was complex. For example, what to make of the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), or the seeming contradiction of the coming Messiah as both a suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13- 53:12) and conquering King (Isaiah 9:6-7) or both a gentle saviour and avenging judge (Isaiah 61:1-2)?
In hindsight, we know that these tensions are resolved beautifully through one Messiah fulfilling all of this through two comings! However, you can imagine the slightly confusing picture before his first arrival.
However, the reaction described below is really baffling:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:1-3 NIV, emphasis added)
How could a group of people that was supposedly waiting for the arrival of the Messiah not just miss the occasion, but react with outright hostility? They had the temple, the religious system, the festivals, the prophecies, the priests and teachers. They are met by wise men who have travelled for over a year to meet Jesus. If you read on, the experts in Jerusalem even send the wise men straight to Bethlehem quoting Micah 5:2 – they knew their Scriptures, yet they couldn’t be bothered to travel six miles down the road to meet Jesus for themselves!
Maybe the key mistake stems from trusting in this life as opposed to the life to come. In Jerusalem, they had power, wealth, comfort and influence. The religious culture of the time had become so corrupted and distorted that they were not ready for the Messiah and reacted to Jesus’ birth with either apathy or saw him as a threat.
However, others were ready:
- Mary knew she needed a Saviour and was prepared for her incredibly tough mission (Luke 1:26-49)
- Joseph was faithful and righteous, ready to be used by God in his supporting role(Matthew 1:18-25)
- Elizabeth and Zechariah observed the Lord’s commands blamelessly and had waited all their lives to play their role (Luke 1:5-6)
- Simeon (Luke 2:25-35), Anna (Luke 2:36-38) and the wise men (Matthew 2:2-12) were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Messiah.
- The shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) were overjoyed when they met Jesus.
Which response most fits with where you are now? Would you have reacted with worship, opposition or indifference? Those who weren’t ready back then are a pattern of those who won’t be ready prior to Jesus’ return.
We invite you to explore the nativity accounts with a fresh pair of eyes in the coming weeks. But above all, let’s all keep in mind that Jesus is no longer a little baby:
- He first came with meekness as a suffering servant, he returns in power as conquering King
- He first came to give us peace in our hearts, he returns to bring peace across the entire world
- He first came to pay for our sins, he returns to judge all sins
- He first came to die, he returns to take those who are ‘born again’ to live
- He first came to rescue, he returns to reign
Many were not ready for His arrival, but God used the few who were. This little baby can either be your saviour today, or your judge at some point in the future – will you be ready for him this Christmas?
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV)