Would You Have Gone To The Manger?

"When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." (Matthew 2:3)

Anyone who has ever seen a Christmas pageant, or read the Book of Luke, or maybe even just seen “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special”, with the memorable recitation of  Luke 2:8-14 by the character Linus, is familiar with the angelic announcement of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Glory to God in the highest!”, the angel proclaims.

But to whose ears did this monumental announcement come? A handful of shepherds who were tending their flocks in the countryside around Bethlehem. God could have commissioned His angel to carry this Message to the courts of the mightiest kings and rulers in all the Earth, even to the court of Augustus Caesar himself. But He did not. Instead, He sent the news to those who would welcome it, to those whose hearts were ready to receive their Savior.

Some time after Jesus was born, the wise men from the East entered Jerusalem. They followed the customary practice and, being that they were searching for a King, went straight to the local palace. They did not inquire of the local shepherds, they did not search the stables and feeding troughs of the city. For it was the King of the Jews Who had been born, would not the local king in Jerusalem have known where He was? Wouldn’t he have welcomed the birth of the Messiah?

“When Herod heard these things he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3)

Does it not seem that the verse should read, “When Herod heard these things he was delighted?” How is it that anyone, upon hearing news that the long-awaited Savior of mankind has been born, would be troubled by this? But he was. Not only that, all of Jerusalem was troubled with him (which makes it implausible that there were only three magi who had arrived in Jerusalem. The whole city was in a commotion, suggesting that there were most likely anywhere from several dozen to a couple of hundred “wise men” riding into town). The shepherds rejoiced and praised God when they had visited the Lord Jesus (Luke 2:20), they went with haste to see what the angel had told them of (Luke 2:16). But Herod first became concerned, then irritated, then angry over the whole matter. The wise men who came seeking the Child rejoiced with exceeding joy upon seeing the guiding star again (Matthew 2:10), while Herod interrogated the priests and scribes about the place where the Messiah was to be born (Matthew 2:4). The wise men worshiped Him when they found Him (2:11), but Herod sought to have the Baby killed (2:16).

What remarkably different reactions to the news of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ we see between the wise men and Herod, and between the shepherds around Bethlehem and the citizenry of Jerusalem. How is it that the very same news, the exact same proclamation of the Savior’s birth, could elicit two completely opposite responses? The birth of Jesus should have been heralded by the entire world, His coming should have been proclaimed with great joy from the mightiest palaces to the lowliest hovels throughout the entire land. Herod’s ruse was that he, too, desired to worship the newborn King (Matthew 2:8), but that should have been exactly what he did. Even Caesar should have come to see the Lord at His birth, but instead he busied himself making sure that all the peoples of his empire were accounted for. While he occupied himself with assuring that no resident of Rome would slip through the cracks and fail to pay what was deemed their share of taxes, the One Who could have given him eternal life was born within his borders, and he did not even notice.

Herod’s problem was that he saw himself as the “king of the Jews.” A wicked man, hungry for power, he had no interest in sharing his kingdom with anyone, even if it was God in the flesh. Without a doubt, Caesar would have responded in kind at the notion that there was One Whose Kingdom would overshadow his own. We may not have earthly kingdoms of our own over which we rule, but each one of us also sits upon a throne before we learn of Jesus Christ. That throne is the throne of our own lives, the throne of doing things our own way, the throne of seeking after our own interests. Herod would have had to concede that he was not the one in ultimate control of his own kingdom had he bowed his knee to Jesus, something he was entirely unwilling to do. For many people, the thought of abdicating their own throne to make room for Jesus is just as troubling.

This Christmas, many people will “celebrate” the birth of Jesus Christ by spending money on loved ones, eating huge dinners, or attending Christmas parties. They will be busying themselves with enlarging their own kingdoms and sitting steadfast on their own thrones. They will tell others, “Merry Christmas”, but will give no thought at all to the One Who was born in the manger, the One Whose birth the angel announced on that night long ago. Oh, they might sing a song or two about Him, or give away a few greeting cards with a nativity scene on it, but their gesture will be as hollow as Herod’s: Let me sing this Christmas carol, that I may worship Him, too. And all the while they are greatly troubled by the notion that there is a rightful Ruler Who wishes to reign in their own heart.

We must all ask ourselves if we are like the shepherds and the magi, or if we are like Herod and the people of Jerusalem. Do we welcome the news of His coming, or are we troubled by it? Would we have gone to the manger to see the newborn King, or would we have simply gone about our daily lives, as if He had not come? When the announcement that the Lord Jesus Christ has come and that He is the rightful King and Ruler of our hearts falls upon our own ears, we must decide if we will make room for Him to reign on the throne, or if we are more interested in clinging to our own place there.

Is Jesus Welcome?

As we come to the conclusion of the celebration of Hanukkah this year, I wanted to write about something that struck me as very interesting. I was reading about how Hanukkah is actually mentioned in the New Testament over in John 10:22 – “And it was the feast of dedication (Hanukkah), and it was winter.” Well, the part that struck me as interesting about this is the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was in the Temple during the observation of Hanukkah, along with the Jewish priests and religious leaders. As Margaret points out in her comment on this article I was reading, this was supposed to be an occasion of celebration and the religious leaders used it as a time to confront the Lord Jesus and attack Him.

Erected in the Temple stood a Menorah, a candelabrum containing nine branches, one for each day of the celebration plus an additional branch called a Shamash. Each day, an additional candle would be lit to commemorate the miraculous provision of God during the eight day re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes. As the story goes, there was only enough olive oil on hand to keep the flame in the Temple burning for one day, yet God caused it to burn for eight days until more oil could be pressed and prepared for service.

In light of this, the image of the Jewish leaders taking up stones against the Lord Jesus Christ (John 10:31) is really quite ironic. They are commemorating a time when God provided light for them in the Temple, yet they are seeking to snuff out the Light of the world. They are commemorating how God made a day’s worth of olive oil last eight days, but they are seeking to destroy the One Who had the power to anoint them with the everlasting Oil that is the Holy Spirit. They are rejoicing over a lamp (menorah) made with human hands, all the while seeking to extinguish the Lamp that God has provided them. They were busy celebrating the feast of Hanukkah, and rejected the very One Whom they claimed to be honoring!

The story has been told of a woman to whom the Lord Jesus appeared in a dream saying, “Get ready, for tomorrow I shall come to visit you at your house.” The woman awoke the next morning, very excited about the Lord’s promised visit to her. She began to clean and straighten her home and prepare a huge banquet for her coming Guest of Honor. As she made preparations, a blind beggar appeared at her door, asking if she might have something to spare for him.

“I am terribly sorry, but I haven’t anything to give to you”, she responded, “I have a very important Guest coming today and I must keep what I have for Him.”

She began to tend to her work again, making preparations for the Lord to arrive. A little later, another knock came at the door. This time, a small girl stood outside who was lost and asked if she would help her to find her mother.

“I am sorry, but I haven’t any time to spare, child. I have a very important Guest coming soon and I must get things prepared for Him”, she answered.

As the afternoon wore on, the woman was putting the finishing touches on her feast when a knock came again at her door. She ran to answer it, knowing that this had to be the Lord Jesus this time. But on the other side of the door was only a very old woman in very old and ragged clothes.

“I was walking by and smelled the food coming from your house. It smells wonderful, would you happen to have enough for me to come in and have some?”, the old woman asked.

“No, I am very sorry, but I have a special Guest coming soon and I must be sure there is enough for Him”, she replied, not wanting this ragged old woman to ruin all of her hard work.

She returned to her kitchen and made herself busy in excited anticipation, knowing that the Lord should be coming any time. But the hours passed by, and still the Lord did not show up. Finally, it grew very late and the disappointed woman headed for her bed.

“I don’t understand, Lord”, she prayed, “You promised that You were going to come to my house today, why didn’t you show up?”

“Three times I came to your door today”, He replied, “And each time you sent Me away.”

While the Jewish leaders were at the Temple, commemorating Hanukkah, God showed up in the flesh and they did not recognize Him. Instead, they sought to destroy Him! He has a way of showing up in the lives of people when they least expect Him to. Sadly, many are busily going about their lives, claiming to be serving Him, but they do not even recognize Him when He comes. I wonder what would happen at so many houses this Christmas if the Lord Jesus did in fact show up? Would He be welcomed as the Guest of Honor that He is, or would He be turned away or even attacked because they failed to recognize Him?

Living In Thanksgiving Everyday

As we take time to pause and celebrate, giving thanks for all of the blessings that we have been given, join me and take a moment to reflect on the words of the 100th Psalm and consider four things to thank the Lord for on this Thanksgiving Day:

As we take time to pause and celebrate, giving thanks for all of the blessings that we have been given, join me and take a moment to reflect on the words of the 100th Psalm and consider four things to thank the Lord for on this Thanksgiving Day:

Thank Him For Who He Is, Not Just What He Has Done

“Know ye that the LORD he is God” (Psalm 100:3a)

All too often we tend to give thanks to God only for the things that He has given to us and not for Who He is. God’s presence in our lives is not the sum of the blessings He brings to us. That the One Who sits upon the Throne of Heaven and reigns over the Universe itself would want to sit upon the thrones of our own hearts and rule over our lives is a wondrous thing, indeed. What is man that Thou art mindful of him? asks the Psalmist (Psalm 8:4), for it is no small thing that the Lord of glory would even be interested in condescending to know us and to give us life in Him. But He does. He is God, He is the One in control of all things. Let us thank Him that He is God.

Thank Him For Giving Us Life, Not Just Making Our Lives Better

“It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;” (Psalm 100:3b)

The Psalmist writes again that “Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). The Apostle Paul declared: “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Let us recognize this Thanksgiving not only the recent blessings that God has brought into our lives, but the fact that He is the very One Who has given us life in the first place.

Thank Him For Who He Has Made Us, Not Just Who We Hope To One Day Be

“We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3c)

We have a Shepherd Who loves us and takes care of us. The Shepherd has chosen us to be His sheep and to live in His pasture. So often we pray for God to make us something else, to help us become someone better. Yet there is truly no higher attainment that we can strive for, nor is there any place of greater safety than to live as a sheep among His flock. We are His sheep because He has made us so. Let us thank Him for that.

Thank Him For What He Will Do For Us Tomorrow, Not Just For What He Has Done For Us Yesterday And Today

“For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

While the Lord has instructed us not to be anxious over the things of tomorrow (Matthew 6:34), He has never forbidden us to be thankful for His provision that has not yet come. It is never to early to thank God for the things that He will do in the future. In verse 3 of Psalm 100 we saw that God has made us (yesterday), that He is God and we are His people (today). Verse 5 shows us that His mercy is everlasting and endures to all generations (tomorrow). Let us thank Him that He has taken care of us yesterday, even since before we were born; He is taking care of us today; and He will take care of us tomorrow. God has been faithful, He is faithful today, and He will continue to be so for all those who will live after us until the Day of His return.

Living In Thanksgiving Everyday

May you and those whom God has put into your life have a truly blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day. May we keep these things to be thankful for from the 100th Psalm in our hearts and not just mention them briefly in a prayer offered before we eat a meal this Thursday. Let us live in thanksgiving to God each and everyday – not merely giving thanks in the words we say, but by acknowledging Him in all of our ways.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalm 100:4)