The angels' joyful announcement was worthy of
our Heavenly King.
Yet, except for a few lowly shepherds, the people of Bethlehem
failed to welcome Him. Had they forgotten the long-awaited
Messiah prophesied by Isaiah long ago:
"For Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the
government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be
Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father,
the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace
there shall be no end. "
Today's world is
just as oblivious. It shuts Him out. Just look around. Shoppers crowd the
stores, but few see signs of Jesus. The old, familiar manger scenes have been
stripped from public places. His name and message have been banned from
holiday celebrations at schools and colleges across America. And
when the planned "Sustainable
Communities" mandated by international law and by
President Clinton's Executive Order
are put in place, our "divisive" expressions of faith will be
Yet, in the dim light of
human nature, it makes sense. Our sovereign King doesn’t fit
man's vision of
interfaith unity. His
Way is too
narrow, and His Word is
far too offensive! In fact, He
warned us about spiritual war and persecution more than two millennia ago,
and it still fits our times.
"...the whole world lies under the
sway of the wicked one."
1 John 5:19
"Marvel not, my
brethren, if the world hate you."
1 John 3:13
Never mind that He created the universe
and has each future day written in His Book. Or that He alone
can fulfill our longing for genuine peace and lasting joy. His guidelines
still enrage the world -- including many who call themselves
Christians. His call for holiness disturbs their comfort zone.
complacency, our Lord may be sad, but He is never surprised. (John 2:24)
Long ago, He stood in Jerusalem watching a world too blinded by
sin and Satan -- and too distracted by their wants and
ambitions -- to see the Savior in their midst. So, with unspeakable sorrow, He said,
"If you had known the things that make for your peace! But
now they are hidden from your eyes."
Today, almost 2000 years later,
the world's religious leaders still lead the anti-Jesus crusade. Many have
accepted the UN consensus on spirituality:
all religions are
equally good -- except Biblical Christianity. The
planned "Culture of Peace"
can't accommodate God's "divisive" Biblical values.
Since His Word can't be conformed to the world's amoral standards for
human life and
health, it threatens their
dream of global solidarity.
forefront of this cultural transformation stand countless
teach a cross-less distortion of Christianity. They exemplify the religious climate on that glorious night when our King came to
earth and angelic jubilation pierced the stillness. But few could hear the message.
For Jesus was born into a culture ruled by the
same spiritual tyrant that prods the masses today:
"Satan, who deceives the whole world..."
During our Lord's
short time on earth, the religious leaders despised His offer of
grace and His call to faith.
"Come unto Me…"
meant leaving the acceptable ways of the world -- a dangerous
notion to any success-driven establishment. Unless the
long-awaited Messiah would conform to contemporary teachings, He
was not welcome in their midst. John summarized the tragedy as
well as the triumph:
"...he world was made through
Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and
His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to
them He gave the right to become children of God..." John 1:10-12
Human nature doesnt change with time, nor does the spiritual
war that still rages against Jesus Christ, His Word, and His followers.
the most part, the world will tolerate pretty stars, child-like angels, Christmas trees... even a
peaceful little baby sleeping in a manger. But there’s still
"no room at the inn"
for a King who invites us to walk with Him on His lowly path.
And if we choose to let Him
"be born in us"
we must also share His suffering and bear with Him
"the offense of the cross"
– the world’s hostility toward the separated and
crucified life Christ grants to those who love Him.
Keep in mind, the
main problem is not the way we trivialize shepherds
and reinvent angels. Nor
is it the season of the year. I doubt that Jesus cares whether
we celebrate His birth in December or closer to the unknown date.
Nor is it the
alternatives to Christianity. While Kwanza,
Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice may have replaced Christmas programs
in public schools and homes, they alone wouldnt weaken the true Church.
Even socialism and Communism can't quench faith. Their darkness
only makes the light shine brighter and His promises more
Just look at China
and North Korea. Where true believers face the deadly
threats to their lives and churches, they demonstrate a growth in
perseverance (as well as in numbers) that puts American churches to shame.
Nor is it the pagan roots of most popular Christmas customs.
Few are even aware of the pagan history behind Christmas trees, mistletoes
or the ancient midwinter celebration of a mother-goddess with the midwinter baby. While
these unholy roots may contribute to spiritual confusion, the real crisis
is more personal.
Our main problem has to do with our view of God and our relationship to Jesus.
have been taught to think of the King of the universe more like a super-Santa
than a sovereign God who holds us accountable to His Word. We forget that life's
trials as well as His
gracious gifts are designed to conform us to His image, not meet all our wants.
He grieves when
we pretend to please Him while we serve ourselves. His "birthday" has become a
celebration of human gratification, not true joy and Spirit-led worship.
May His lowly birth
and humbling circumstances be a constant reminder to give Him our lives and fix our hope on
"let us lay aside
every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and
let us run with
endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto
Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for
the joy that was set before Him endured the cross..."
Jesus said to Peter,
“...you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things
message be for us as well? If so, how can we set our minds on "the things of God"
-- not just
during this season but every day?
Two millennia ago, God touched the hearts of
wise men who
would have treasured the truths we have available today. With
joy, they received the little information He gave, then set out
on a long, risky pilgrimage to worship the newborn King:
"…behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For
we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship
pilgrims were willing to risk their own lives to make the long, dangerous
journey. The gifts they brought were chosen with
care (and probably with His loving guidance, though they didn't know Him
yet.) They gave Him their
very best – offerings worthy of a mighty King.
Other gifts have pleased Him less. When Ananias and Sapphira
pretended to give their all but secretly withheld some of their
wealth, they were struck dead -- a frightening consequence of half-hearted
devotion. That taught us something
about our God. He longs for wholehearted love and loyalty, not a pretentious
show of piety.
Back in Old Testament days, Gods chosen nation
professed to follow His guidelines. They offered the prescribed sacrifices
out of cultural obedience. They had to! People were watching each
other. But they cheated their all-knowing God by giving as little
as possible blemished gifts, worth little to man and less
than nothing to God. The best they kept for themselves. So
God warned them:
"Cursed be the deceiver
who... sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.
For I am
a great King, " says the LORD of hosts,
And My name is to be feared among the nations."
Then as now, a lukewarm show of obedience to Biblical guidelines
is hypocrisy a pretense of loyalty to the Christ whose
name we bear. But the opposite, the genuine devotion God seeks
from His followers, was demonstrated by Mary. Listen to her response
to the angels awesome message one that called her
to endure the shame of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in a culture where sexual promiscuity
called for death:
"...the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a
Son, and shall call His name JESUS
"Then Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since
I do not know a man?'
And the angel answered and said
to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the
power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that
Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God
with God nothing will be impossible.'
"Then Mary said, 'Behold the maidservant of the Lord!
Let it be to me according to your word.'"
chose Mary, for He knew her heart. He saw that she would do whatever
He asked. Her gift to Him was her faith, love, life and obedience. Understanding
that the Old Testament "bondservant" means willing surrender of everything
out of love for her Master, she offered herself as a
accept the suffering implied in His assignment.
earthly path for His own beloved Son would begin in a lowly stable
-- and end on a cruel cross. His only worshippers
on that first joyful night were his parents and the poor shepherds who heard
the angels sing.
On our pilgrimage
along God's narrow way, how can we best worship Jesus today?
Please show and enable us, precious Shepherd and King.