Entering in and really contemplating the Christmas story and all the many players invited to be part of God’s bigger plan has been encouraging, and at times challenging. One scene has always captivated me and intrigued me, the one where the wise men go to the Herod’s palace to meet the newborn king because they have been following his star. (Matthew 2) Herod knows who to ask to get the information they are looking for. He calls the “people’s chief priests.”(Interesting that they are called the “people’s” chief priests, not God’s or the temple chief priests…) Herod calls them to ask where the Messiah was to be born, another interesting phrasing, not where is some baby, or is there mention of a newborn king, but Messiah. Herod knows who he is asking for and the chief priests do not have to dig around to unearth this information that King Herod wants. They know and answer without hesitation, in Bethlehem and they even quote from their scriptures about this event, this event that they were supposed to be on the lookout for, the one event that should have set their hearts soaring when they heard this news, the event that they should have seen coming because they should have been on the lookout. Instead the scriptures say, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” (3) The Savior and King of the Jews has been born, and all of God’s city, is disturbed, some translations say troubled, deeply disturbed, worried, greatly agitated. For people who should have been on the lookout and so thankful that God, after 400 years of silence, has come to rescue His people, their response is the opposite. Even Herod who was raised in a Jewish home and comes from the line of Esau, the Messiah should have been his also, but I do not have expectations for a king to be excited about another king, but the chief priests, and all of Jerusalem not forming a parade to go with the wise men or even people of Jerusalem to casually join the caravan just to check out the possibility is so interesting to me.
As I have been thinking about the Christmas story and all the people involved and their various responses, perspective comes to mind. C.S. Lewis has a great quote in the Magician’s Nephew about perspective, “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” This point was driven home over the holidays when a woman came up to my husband after his sermon to let him know how much she appreciated his sermon on Mary a couple weeks back, and how she had never really thought about how Mary had to ride on the back of the donkey being nine months pregnant and all. My husband stood baffled because he had never said that. He did not even mention the donkey even joking due to the “Donkey Police” incident (https://inkblotlife.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/donkey-police/). This got me thinking about C.S. Lewis’ quote, unbeknownst to that woman she probably had watched many Christmas movies, or seen cards or heard songs that mention or at least picture Mary on a donkey. So when my husband preached about the challenge of the journey of having to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem nine months pregnant, her mind plugged in to what she already believed. As I thought about perspective as it related to the Christmas story I thought about how various people received the news about this baby, Emmanuel, God with us. The shepherds were so thankful to be invited to this party, they ran toward Jesus and then told anyone who would listen all about Him and the angels’ message. I can imagine that they were never the same. These wise men who had left their country with anticipation and expectation were willing to go to great trouble to find this king. Their response, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him.” (10,11) They found what they were seeking, and were overjoyed. They were not concerned about cost, inconvenience, or even threat to their power, they wanted to be part of this. I have a feeling they were never the same either. We know they had an encounter with God and trusted Him because after they came to Jesus they obeyed the dream they had about going home a different way to avoid Herod.
In contrast to the guests at Jesus entrance to the world is Herod, the chief priests, and the people of Jerusalem. There is no evidence that anyone went to find Jesus to worship Him. There does not seem to be a group of chief priests who were ready to risk their position, and challenge the authority to welcome the Messiah. Instead, from their perspective and that of Herod, this newborn king was a threat to their power, their positions, and their way of life. Instead of expectation and anticipation, it is one of fear, anger, and trouble. Herod seeks to destroy this baby at the cost of many other babies. And we hear no mention of Chief priests or people of Jerusalem putting up any sort of insurrection at such an order. They apparently knew the truth and it troubled them. It moved them to protect themselves and their position, and they missed it. They missed their invitation to be part of God coming to earth to save them. This was not their perspective and they could not get there, so they missed it.
As I have been pondering I feel like the question comes back to me, what is my perspective? Where am I standing as I look in the manger? Am I even looking? Now that Advent is over will I move on and forget all that I have wondered and pondered, or will I treasure it up and allow it to continue to fill my heart and mind? Will I continue practicing being still with the Word, or will I jump back into busyness, and allow my perspective to be skewed? Will I allow God to shake things up in my heart, mind, and life if He desires? I desire to be like the shepherds who continued to spread the word. I desire to be like the Wise men who allowed God to direct their steps, and guide them on their road home. I am thankful for all that has been planted over this Advent season, and desire to continue in Awe and Wonder, that this same baby that rocked all these people’s worlds for good or bad depending on their perspective, still impacts our world today, still impacts my world today. I am praying that I will not miss it as the calendar flips and the boxes are put away for another year. I am asking God as He has already given me greater wonder, that He would continue to do so as I step into the “ordinary” days. I am thankful that He is faithful, and He will do all that He has promised. As God promises in Isaiah 55:11, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” So I wait and watch for the fullness of time for each thing that God is showing and teaching me, and those around me, because for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)