“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,and we have come to worship him.”
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities1 of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.'” Matthew 2:2-6 NLT
We like to think of the diversity of people who came to Christmas. There were the young: Mary. There were the old: Anna and Simeon. There were the poor and uneducated: the shepherds, and the wealthy and educated: the wise men. There were working people: Joseph. The world knelt before the newborn King.
But who didn’t come? The politically and religiously powerful: Herod and the priests and the teachers of religious law. And why not? Why didn’t they come? Perhaps Herod’s absence is the easier to explain. This Bethlehem baby posed a challenge to the personal position that Herod had so carefully built up through genius, and intrigue, and murder over the past thirty years. No matter who that baby was, he was not going to supplant Herod. Oh, but that is what Jesus does. He comes to take us off the throne of our lives, so that we can have fellowship with the Lifegiver. Are you willing to come to Christmas, “Herod”?
But what about the priests and the Bible scholars? Shouldn’t they have gotten out their chariots and their horses and “hot-footed” it to Bethlehem to see this great event which the Bible (no wandering star) is so clear about? Why not? I would suggest that they had become so familiar with religious things that they had forgotten what the religion is all about – a living relationship with the living God. The priests were concerned with keeping the customs and traditions and rituals just right – no variations allowed here – and the Bible scholars wanted to be sure they got the citations of the famous rabbis of the past just right. The Messiah? In Bethlehem? Oh yeah, maybe so, but we’ve got other things to think about. Is that you and me? Are we willing to come to Christmas, “Priest,” “Bible student”?