A Meditation on Matthew 2:1-11
I believe most people will actually miss Christmas. I know this sounds ludicrous in our American culture that is drowning in a sea of Christmas marketing and sales, which begins before Thanksgiving ends, yet I still believe it. Oh, they’ll have a Christmas tree, maybe put up some colorful lights around the house, pass out gifts, go to a Christmas party or two, spend time with family and friends, but all the while missing the true meaning of Christmas.
Several years ago there was a haunting newspaper story about a wealthy Boston family who had a christening party for their new baby. They invited all their friends and relatives to their magnificent home to celebrate the birth of their precious infant. A half hour into the party, when it was time to bring the baby out for everyone to see, the mother made a tragic discovery. The large bed where she had left the baby asleep was piled high with the coats of the guests. The baby was lying dead underneath the mound, suffocated by the carelessly discarded wraps. This tragic scene is similar to what happens to Jesus during the Christmas (holiday?) season. Jesus is virtually suffocated by frenzied shopping, baking, decorating, gift giving, parties, etc. Jesus is conspicuous by his absence? If we’re not careful we’ll miss Christmas.
Perhaps, you know what Christmas is all about, not the coming of Santa, but the coming of the Savior, who was to be given the name Jesus. Why the name Jesus? Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which means “the LORD saves.” An angel appeared to Joseph and said, “[Y]ou are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). This is the true meaning of Christmas in a nutshell.
How does God want us to celebrate Christmas? I believe at least three characteristics should be a part of our Christmas celebration. We see these characteristics with the Magi.
First, we should celebrate Christmas by recognizing Jesus. Incredibly, the vast majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, and fail to recognize who Jesus is. In Jesus’ own day, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (Jn. 1:10). You have to wonder how you can have a birthday party and be clueless about the person who’s birthday it is you’re celebrating. Yet, millions do it every year.
The very first Christmas was missed by most people, including King Herod, almost all of Israel, and the religious leaders. Only the Magi recognized that Jesus was “the one who has been born king of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2). Don’t gloss over Matthew’s irony here. The gospel of Matthew was written for Jews, but it is a group of Gentiles that recognize Jesus as the “king of the Jews.” This is a sharp rebuke to Matthew’s readers, who failed to see Jesus as their king.
Second, we should celebrate Christmas by seeking Jesus. Perhaps, you’ve seen the bumper sticker: Wise men still seek him. It’s true. We don’t know how far the Magi had to travel to seek out Jesus, but it was apparently quite a distance. They were willing to leave their comfort zones to find Jesus, and they asked questions to learn more about Jesus, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” How many of us really seek after Jesus? The LORD tells us, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). Maybe some of us haven’t found Jesus, because we haven’t left our comfort zones to find him. Or, maybe some of us haven’t found Jesus, because our seeking has been half-hearted.
Third, we should celebrate Christmas by worshiping Jesus. The Magi said, “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2). The narrative culminates with the Magi worshiping Jesus: “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matt. 2:11). If we don’t worship Jesus this Christmas, and unfortunately most people don’t, we miss Christmas.
Matthew contrasts the eagerness of the Magi to worship Jesus with the apathy of the religious leaders and the hostility of Herod. What is the condition of your heart this Christmas? Are you zealous to worship your Savior and King? Are you bored or indifferent to the things of God? Are you hostile toward God because He is interfering with your lifestyle? All of us fall into one of these categories. Only those who truly recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world, seek after Him with all their heart, and joyfully worship Him, truly celebrate Christmas. Don’t miss Christmas.