With the Christmas holiday being less than a week away, I thought I’d post a series of reflections celebrating Christ’s birth and his reasons for coming. While Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ’s birth, we must never be satisfied with acknowledging the birth itself. Celebrating Christmas is meaningless unless we ask why Christ has come. What does it mean that God sent his Son into the world to become one of us?
In Matthew’s gospel account, controversy surrounds Jesus’s birth and infancy. There’s the issue of his being born to a virgin out of wedlock, but following the account of his birth the focus centers on another controversy that has the whole city of Jerusalem astir: rumors are being spread by foreign dignitaries about an infant “who has been born king of the Jews” (Matt 2:2). The claim is very controversial for several reasons:
- Who it came from — The wise men were diplomats from foreign nations. In other words, they were pagans. The first people who came to see and worship Jesus were pagans; not Jews, although the Jews were known as heirs to God’s kingdom. Why is it that pagan foreigners were first to notice Christ’s coming? Had the Jews stopped waiting for God to fulfill his promise to restore his kingdom in their midst? It seems so, since the chief priests and scribes knew Christ was to be born in Bethlehem but never went looking for him.
- Who it came to — The claim came to the city of Jerusalem and eventually to Herod, the king of Judea. How preposterous these diplomats were to make public claims that a new Jewish king had been born! Didn’t they know that Herod was king? Or was it that they recognized that Herod’s kingship was illegitimate, and that the true king was this newly born infant? It seemed they were convinced that this infant was the true king, since they initially agreed to inform Herod that they’d found the infant for Herod himself to worship.
- Who it spoke of — The wise men came to worship this newborn king. Tribute is one thing, but worship is to be reserved only for God. Were these pagans merely carrying over their ungodly practices in paying homage to a king by worshiping him as if he were divine? Or was it that they actually believed this infant to be of more noble lineage, that he was the promised king of Israel, God’s true son? God must’ve honored their worship, since he warned them in a dream not to return to Herod the king.
What can be said of these things? I think we can learn that Christ’s coming had global significance. Yes, this is the king of the Jews, but he was worshiped by foreign diplomats. Matthew shares these details in his gospel account in order to show that God’s kingdom would expand beyond Irsael’s borders through Christ. Clearly God was doing something unique in history through Christ’s birth! Matthew recounts this story in Jesus’ infancy to reveal that Jesus was not only the king of the Jews, but the King of kings and Lord of lords! Six centuries prior, the prophet Isaiah foretold of his coming:
“…to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder . . . Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isa 9:6-7).
Therefore, Christmas is a message that God has sent his Son into the world to become our King. In celebrating Christmas, we hope in the promise that God will restore peace to all the earth by establishing his kingdom under the rule of his Son, who will reign with perfect justice and righteousness for all eternity. This kingdom foretold by Isaiah includes people from all nations — any who would bow before King Jesus and worship him.
There will come a day when every knee will be bowed before him and every mouth will confess that he is Lord! Kings, rulers, presidents, chancellors, congressmen, senators — all will acknowledge his supreme lordship over all; some to their shame while others in glad submission. On that day, no one will place their hope in a mortal man. Those who trust in him will serve as citizens in his kingdom, and all that is wrong in the world will finally be made right! Can you see it? Can you even imagine what this day will be like?