Wise Men Still Seek Him

Like other culturally driven topics like the making of resolutions or the giving of thanks, focusing on Christ’s birth is relegated to one time of the year. In this, we remember the stories surrounding that birth like those recorded in Matthew 2, where we find the wise men following a brilliant star to Bethlehem. Surrounding this event is Herod’s plot to assassinate the Christ child and His family’s flight to Egypt.

Many questions remained unanswered about these individuals. How do the wise men know who they are seeking? Where do they come from? How many are there? What did they find, and what do we find when we seek Jesus?

The Wise Will Find…

  • A manifestation of God’s plan. Jesus is the culmination of God’s plan to defeat Satan and bless the nations. He is the prophet likened unto Moses who would speak the words of God. He is the son of David who would establish Jehovah’s house forever, and He is the one to be born of a virgin. In Isaiah 7:10-16, the prophet challenges Ahaz to ask for a sign. He refuses, so God offers a sign regardless – a child born of a virgin called Immanuel. John 3:16 appropriately sums this up, and Romans 5:8 reinforces that Christ’s mission is one of personal mercy and love.
  • A demonstration of unselfishness. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus states that His mission is to serve others and give His life for them. In verses 26-27, He encourages us to be humble and meek in our lives and the service we perform for others. Self should become secondary to the well-being and the needs of others. James 4:6-7 warns that God resists the proud, but He gives His grace to the humble.
  • Hope for the lost. In Ephesians 2:11-13, Paul speaks of a former state isolated from God, having no hope, but Christ brings us closer. Christ gives us hope. I Thessalonians 4:13-14, Paul states that he wishes for his readers to have hope for resurrection and salvation, and Hebrews 6:17-20 speaks of a hope like an anchor that comes to us through Jesus.
  • Immanuel, God With Us. Jesus is deity in the flesh as recorded in Matthew 1:22-23. John 1:1 speaks of the Word being God, and verse 14 reveals that the Word became flesh – that flesh being the being of Jesus. God walked among man when He came in the form of Jesus.

Following the Example

They first gave of themselves by seeking Him, and, in finding Him, they worshipped. Do we seek Jesus as diligently as these anonymous individuals? What do we do if we find Him. Seeking and finding is not enough. Once found, Jesus deserves our reverence, worship, and commitment. He is our hope, our mercy, and our salvation, and we should find ourselves humbled and awed in His presence.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Scripture & the Christmas Story

It is the time of year when we start to see things like “Happy Birthday Jesus” on church signs and bulletins. We’ve discussed before the importance of making sure we do things God’s way rather than man’s way, and, even among the secular world, many do understand that what is typically portrayed as the “Christmas Story” is not what happened.

The Evolution of Christmas

Starting in Matthew 1, we have one account of Jesus’ birth. Luke chapter 2 does much the same with a few additional details. Many elements are familiar, such as the shepherds whom the angels appear to. These come to Jesus’ birthplace. Eight days later, He is circumcised. At least forty-eight days later, He was presented in the temple, and the wise men visit after this, seeing a young child in a house – Jesus is now at least two months old.

The actual year, season, and date are completely unknown. Judging from New Testament clues, the “first Christmas” could have been in late autumn. The climate was mild in that the shepherds spent the night with their flock.

Man has romanticized and built up ritual around this story, and there was even early controversy in the church over what date Christmas would be observed on. (Some churches rejected 12/25 in favor of a January or March observance. The date was actually picked to serve as competition with pagan rituals observed on 12/25. Saint Nicholas passed away in early December around 400 AD, and his death was commemorated with the exchange of gifts.

Paul & Holidays

We have many traditions that have pagan or religious origins (All Hollow’s Eve, birthday candles, St. Valentine’s Day, etc.). In Galatians 4:8-11, Paul basically says that observing special days is not wrong, but these should not be seen as religious acts of worship. There is a separation between secular and religious celebrations.

Christ’s Established Memorial

In contrast to the unknowns surrounding Christ’s birth, we are given explicit details regarding the observance of Christ’s death. We are told when to observe; we know how we should observe; we know the manner and attitude to be held. God’s word makes it clear that the focal point of Christ’s life is His death rather than His birth.

In I Corinthians 2:11, Paul explains that we know nothing of God except what the Spirit has revealed to us. I don’t know what you are thinking or what makes you happy unless you tell me. The same is true for God. Leviticus 10:1, II Samuel 7:5, and I Kings 12:33 all serve as examples of individual who step outside of God’s desires, and it is not pleasing to Him when this happens.

Conclusion

Isaiah 7 records God asking Ahaz to request a sign confirming His faithfulness to His people. Ahaz feigns false faith in denying a sign, but the Lord provides a sign nonetheless. The sign is Christ, the virgin birth, the one named Immanuel, and God tells of a wonderful kingdom established and ruled by this Messiah. Isaiah 9:6 tells us of a Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, a Prince of Peace whose reign will never fail. It is a grand story, but it is not the “Christmas Story.”

Christ’s birth was glorious. His coming and birth is the subject of many prophecies. It is appropriate for us to study and revere His birth, but we should do this at any time – not just once a year. We cannot disregard what God has commanded and substitute our own traditions and assume we please God. We have not the authority to dictate to the Creator what we feel should be pleasing to Him when He has told us what He desires from us. Christ’s coming and death cured the problem of sin, and we should be always thankful for that gift. Let us celebrate Christ the way God wants us to – every day of our lives.

lesson by Tim Smelser