“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.”
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Christmas Eve stirs in me memories of childhood and Christmas Eve services in our little church. Without special effects, spotlights, fog machines, and elaborate costumes, I like to think we did pretty well in telling the Christmas story. One Christmas Eve I was a shepherd clad in a bathrobe; I wore a towel pulled tight around my head. Another Christmas Eve I was excited to be Melchior, a wise man, carrying and presenting to baby Jesus an old cigar box disguised by gold foil. I had one line to speak about having seen the star.
Since then I have had a heart for the wise men traveling hundreds of miles seeking Jesus. I am astonished that on the strength of just seeing a star they set out to find the Savior. “For we observed his star rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Matthew 2:2b). I think of the wise men –- magi, astrologers, kings — whatever we call them, the first in a long line of seekers.
But, on the other hand, over against the wise men are “all the chief priests and scribes” holed up in Jerusalem (Matthew 2:4). They are not moving. They are the self-satisfied, religious upper-crusters, devoting their lives to preserving and teaching Scripture. They are even able to quote by memory Old Testament prophecies so that they can tell the wise men where to find Jesus: “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet” (Matthew 2:5). Ironically, the people who are the spiritual elite, and best know Scripture, will not bother themselves to walk five miles down the road to Bethlehem to see the newborn Savior.
I’ve always liked the bumper sticker we see at Christmas time: “Wise Men Still Seek Him.” God always lets Himself be found by any who seek Him.
God welcomes all comers, prodigals, prostitutes, tax collectors, wise men, along with chief priests and scribes. God has thrown a grand come-as-you-are homecoming party. He welcomes everyone because He has reconciled everyone to Himself through the blood of the cross. The apostle Paul puts it powerfully in another place “We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you” (2 Corinthians 5:20, The Message).
Can you imagine leaving a gift unopened on Christmas day? Can you imagine a gift with your name on it that you refuse to receive? Of course not! Yet, many people let another Christmas come and go without receiving God’s gift wrapped up for them in Jesus.
I think Jesus might have had gift giving and receiving in mind when He said we must become like little children. Just watch the little children on Christmas Day so eagerly and joyfully receiving their gifts with no thought of deservedness or ever repaying. Observe them enthusiastically tearing off the wrappings from the next gift, and the next, without wondering how to earn or give in return. There is so much to learn from little children about receiving God’s gift gratis, without merit, without deserving. Wise men still seek Him, and wise women, and little children too! God’s generosity and desires for us are boundless!
- Why do you think religious leaders in Jerusalem did not travel the short distance to Bethlehem to find and worship Jesus?
- What might you learn from little children about receiving God’s generous gifts?