Several weeks ago, I heard a story on the evening news that seemed unbelievable. Even the seasoned anchorman shook his head at the end of the segment before the station cut to commercial. Apparently a school system in Wausau, Wisconsin decided to deal with the Christmas “dilemma” a bit differently this year. District officials issued their final decision on December music programs this way: for every religious song played, five secular songs must be included as part of the presentation.
That’s right-not one for one, two for one, but a FIVE to one ratio is now standard procedures for all “holiday” performances. Evidently this is what those educators feel is the fair and balanced way to counter Christian references at Christmas.
But this strange reaction to the celebration of Jesus’ birth isn’t new. Indeed, visceral responses to the mere mention of God’s Son started long ago. Let’s look at Scripture to get a glimpse of an early manifestation of such intense emotion:
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.’ When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”
(Matthew 2:1-3, KJV)
The wise men had been following a star which portended the birth of the King of the Jews. Herod, the ruler of the day, was troubled-but notice he wasn’t alone. “And all of Jerusalem with him” tells us there were many others who didn’t like the idea of Christ’s birth, either.
Herod quickly devised a plan to deal with this problem:
“Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.'”
This treacherous king wasn’t going to let some baby fulfilling a God-given prophecy interfere with his lifestyle (read verses 4-6 which explain what his own advisers told him about Jesus’ birth). He feigned enthusiasm, and he even lied to the wise men about his real intentions for the innocent babe.
The contrast between Herod’s mounting fear and animosity and the wise men’s responses to the birth of the Savior couldn’t have been more glaring:
“When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.”
Their “exceeding great joy” prompted these travelers to not only worship the Christ child but to also offer precious gifts to Him-a tradition of giving still witnessed at Christmas to this day.
Sadly, we see a similar divide of emotional reactions impacting this celebratory season. Some people, either for secular interests or outright outrage, want to wipe away the Christ in Christmas and any evidence of holy in the “holi-day.” Herod certainly did. In fact, he took his hatred to horrific extremes: a zero quota was his ultimate decree (see verses 16-18). Yet God’s plan for the salvation of humankind wouldn’t be thwarted so easily. The same is true today, too.
Sure, there will be those who keep trying to put a quota on how much religion we can put in this holiday. There will be others who want to celebrate Christmas, but they won’t want to hear anything about the Christ who started it all. Yet for millions around the world, no amount of fear or anger can change the reality of what God did by sending His Son. Like those wise men of old, we can and should rejoice with “exceeding great joy” no matter what else is going on around us!
Thought of the Month
“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”