As we draw closer to Christmas, I have a question for you to ponder. Where is the One who this season is supposed to be all about? In scripture, we read about some wise men from the East, who on seeing the sign of a particular star, travelled to Jerusalem and asked this very question, “Where is the One?”
Matthew 2:1-6 (NIV) 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. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
We don’t really know a lot about these wise men from the little that is included in scripture. But we do know that they were the few who paid attention to one of the incredible prophetic signs of Jesus’ birth. These wise men correctly discerned the meaning of the star and knew that a great king had been born. This distinct star would have been visible to a large number of people, yet only a few men who were likely not of Jewish heritage understood the significance of it. The Magi started on a journey of discovery, and they were determined to find the King of the Jews and worship Him.
Contrast that with the chief priests and teachers of the law. When King Herod asked them where the Messiah was to be born, they immediately knew the answer. They didn’t have to look it up; this information was something that they had all studied and learnt by heart. But no one had noticed the star – or the significance of the One it was pointing towards.
If we follow this story along, not one of the religious leaders went with these wise men to ascertain whether this was indeed the Messiah. It seems absurd when you consider that Jerusalem and Bethlehem are only about 9km (5.5 miles) apart – literally a day’s walk. So why didn’t they go to see if this child that had been born was the ruler of Israel that had been prophesied?
The teachers of the law had the answers, but not a heart after God. They knew the words but missed the significance. The priests were simply too proud – and therefore too blind to see what was right before them. Maybe the religious leaders pompously discounted that this was indeed the prophecy of scripture being fulfilled, because of the cultural differences of the wise men from another country. The star of Jacob had arisen (Numbers 24:17-19) but the Jewish leaders completely missed the main event. And of course, then there was Herod, who was threatened by the thought of another king in his territory.
Matthew 2:7-12 (NIV) Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The truth is that while this happened over two thousand years ago, the same effect is being repeated daily around the globe. Just like at the birth of Jesus, humanity generally has one of three responses to the One. Either people are believers in Jesus Christ who continually hunger and thirst after God and follow His leading, like the wise men; or they are hostile to the things of God, like Herod; or they are those who think they know the truth but are blind to it, like the Pharisees. This third category is so dangerous for those who consider themselves to ‘believe’ but only have religious externals, rather than a life truly sold out for Jesus Christ.
This is not just a Christmas story. It is a reminder that we can miss the prophetic things the Lord is saying to us unless we have our eyes open to the things of God. We need to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. We need the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we can know Him better.
We can read this story and tell ourselves that we are different. But this Christmas season, where is the One in your heart? Is Jesus just a brief thought in your week, or do you have an intimate, personal relationship with Him? Are you daily listening to the Holy Spirit and following His guidance and prompts? Or is your mind too busy with other stuff to pay attention?
The One has to become exactly that – number one in our lives. Jesus Christ must be central to everything because He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. As we head closer to Christmas, may we not get swept up in the festivities and miss the One who our very life and breath is dependent on. May our hearts be drawn closer to Him each and every day, and may we pay close attention to what God is doing to build His kingdom here on earth.
Read our ‘Christmas – More Than A Season’ blog.