Charlie Brown asked, “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?” And Linus replied by rehearsing for Charlie Brown the account of the angels’ visit to the shepherds as found in Luke 2. It’s a sweet moment in a favorite holiday classic. And many people know that story–both the Peanuts holiday cartoon and the Gospel story in Luke.
But I do wonder whether I “get” it. Do I live in the Christmas season as if I genuinely know what it is all about?
Matthew provides his readers (and us) with some fascinating details about the birth of Jesus. (Take a moment and read the account found in Matthew 2:1–11.)
Did you notice . . . ?
Why did the wise men come to Jerusalem? What were they seeking? What did Herod ask after hearing what the wise men said? What did he know? How did the priests and scribes answer Herod’s question? What does that mean about what they understood?
After walking through the passage, pay attention to how the wise men, Herod, and the priests and scribes responded to the news of a king being born.
The wise men had oriented their lives around the search for this king. They had traveled far (perhaps for as long as a couple of years; see 2:16). They wanted to find him; so they asked about the promised birth. They pursued that end with joy. And when they found the newborn king, they bowed before him.
Herod took to heart what the wise men had said. He took seriously the possibility that a true king had been born. He feigned a desire to worship that king but was deeply troubled by the prospect that there might be one who could grow up to replace him. So, ultimately, he sought to destroy that threat to his way of life (2:16).
The priests and the scribes knew something of what the Scriptures foretold. They could explain to Herod and the wise men where the promised king could be found. But, apparently, they weren’t too concerned; it didn’t seem to matter to them. They didn’t join the wise men in their journey.
All of them knew that a king had been born.
For the priests and scribes, that was news that left them unchanged. “Yes, the Scriptures told us that would happen, but we’ll just keep doing what we’ve always done.”
For Herod, that was news that left him deeply troubled. “If this is true, my life will be radically changed. I’m not at all pleased with the idea of a new king stepping into my world.”
For the wise men, the news moved them to rejoice and bow down and orient their lives in dramatic ways and, ultimately, bow down and do homage to this king. “The birth of this promised king will forever alter our lives.”
And I wonder. Which of those responses most closely resembles how I respond to the news we are celebrating this Christmas?