For the past few years, I have taken time to study and reflect on the story of Christmas. Although the characters stay the same, the experience is always unique and stretches my faith.
Last year, I was overwhelmed by the lineage of Jesus and what it teaches us about God’s desire to use our imperfections.
This year, I find myself focused on a few ancillary characters that I’ve never considered—King Herod the Great and The Magi.
King Herod the Great
King Herod the Great was the governing king over Judea at the time of Christ’s birth. A bit of research teaches us that he was a master builder. His legacy includes intricate palaces, massive fortresses and countless social advancements.
He was a worldly king with worldly success.
However, his passion for progress was coupled with a ruthless persona. Nothing stopped him in advancing his kingdom—not even his own family. To ensure that he maintained control, Herod murdered his wife, several sons and relatives.
It’s not surprising that he ordered every male under two years of age to be murdered once he got word that a new “King of the Jews” had been born. King Herod reminds me that assaults on our power often reveal our true character. In his case, the potential loss of power pushed Herod to maniacal extremes. But in the end, Herod couldn’t stop the move of God.
Prophetically, God prepared Joseph for Herod’s heinous act and an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egypt for protection. While Jesus and his family were refugees, King Herod died after being ravaged by disease.
As I press into the story this year, the contrast of kingdoms is astonishing.
On one hand, we have the worldly kingdom of Herod. On the other, the Heavenly Kingdom of God. A ruthless, powerful man rules the first with an iron fist. An obscure, infant child rules the latter. The masses revere King Herod. Only those who follow the revelation of God revere the child.
Today, we find ourselves in a similar predicament—we are inundated with opportunities to trust in worldly kingdoms. As a result, we casually place our faith in politics, power and pulpits rather than trusting in the revelation and leading of God.
Whose kingdom will you seek this year?
The Magi, or Wise Men, were astrologers and priests who traveled more than 800 miles following a star. For years we’ve heard about them bringing gifts to the baby in the manger, but this year, a few additional points stood out to me.
First, the Magi knew about Jesus before they came. This means that God had communicated with them ahead of their meeting. This is profound because it means that God was revealing Himself to people other than the Jews. Essentially, God was breaking down the walls of exclusion from the very beginning.
The Magi didn’t have to qualify their beliefs before meeting Jesus and they didn’t have to become a member in order to have access. God revealed His truth and invited them to come.
We have a unfortunate tendency to make faith exclusive. We place parameters around doctrine, denomination and demographics. But the Magi prove that God is inclusive. He’s welcoming everyone to encounter His love.
Secondly, the Magi blessed Jesus with very expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh right after His birth. These gifts were extravagant and unexpected, but they prove God’s desire to be a provider.
Jesus began his life with a blessing. He was provided for from the beginning. This reminds me that as a son or daughter of God—we start with the blessing.
Religion tells us that we have to earn our provision. Christmas reminds us that we’re already blessed.
This year, will you live from or work for the blessing?
A Fresh Perspective
Christmas changes everything. It’s a supernatural declaration of the glory of God—a beautiful display of His heart for His people. It’s the heart of a good Father who is ushering in a new kingdom that He invites us into.
However, when we wrap the holiday in familiarity, we loose the depth of truth in its meaning.
The unexpectant Jewish people missed the unexpected king.
May we not do the same.
Merry Christmas, friends!