The Other Side of Christmas: December 24

Jesus’ Coming Brings God Near to Us.       

December 24, 2019
by Lauren Johnson                 

Matthew 2: 1-12 (NIV) 
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 
 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.” 
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

As a child I can remember taking great delight in going to my school library and finding a new book to read. I especially loved to read the ‘Create Your Own Adventure’ books. These always fascinated me because while I would start with the same introduction to the story, I could always choose which pages to jump to next in the book. The completion of the story depended on the action that I chose. I read a book two or three different times and each time the story for the characters followed a different narrative depending on the path I chose. 
When we consider the passage above and think about the beginning story of Jesus’ life, we see that everyone is impacted by their response to His arrival. The Magi, while not Jews, were so greatly moved by the news of Jesus’ birth that they traveled a great distance over a significant period to worship this newborn King. There is no doubt that this journey was not without struggles and hardships. Yet, they did what was necessary to complete the journey so that they could encounter Christ and humbly worship Him. In contrast, we see Herod’s response is one of fear. When this earthly king received news that his throne and power may be overthrown by someone greater than him, he responds with deception and ultimately, violence.  
Dr. Tony Evans is quoted as saying; “You can reject Him, or you can accept Him, but you CANNOT ignore Jesus.” The choice belongs to each of us individually and the narrative of each of our stories will depend on the choice we make in this adventure of life we have been given. I urge you to not confuse holiday busyness with worship of our Savior. The traditions we keep, the gifts we exchange, the decorations we put up and the gatherings we attend are all good, but they are not worship. Take some time today and this week to be quiet or alone with the Lord so that you can worship and celebrate His presence in your life.   
Lord, thank You for entering this broken world. Thank You for giving up Your place in the Heavenly realms to come and save us. Please help us to see You and focus on Your presence during this busy and sometimes difficult season. We desire to encounter You this Christmas season in a new way that increases our hope and joy in You.  We love You Jesus and it is in Your name we pray, amen.

About the author:
Lauren Johnson
Lauren Johnson a mom of 2 boys and married to AJ Johnson. She has been a member at Stafford Crossing since 2015. On Sundays, you can find her assisting people near the "At Home" wall between services. She also serves on the stage design and décor team.