“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 cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” – Matthew 2:4-6.
The story of Christ’s birth is full of characters who effectively missed the first Christmas. The innkeeper was one and the religious leaders were another. Matthew 2:4-6 describes the scene. Herod gathers all the leading priests and teachers and asks them where the Messiah was to be born. They tell him Bethlehem, citing Micah 5:2 which says, ”But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”
The chief priests and scribes knew exactly where Christ was to be born. These were the theologians, the minds, the brains, the religious elite of Israel. The Jewish people had been looking for their Messiah/Deliverer for a very long time. They were waiting eagerly to end the Roman occupation and oppression. Yet the religious leaders could not make the effort to go to Bethlehem to see if this was truly the Messiah.
The fact is, out of the entire population of Jerusalem and Judea, only a few shepherds came to see the Messiah. And do you remember what they did? After encountering Him, they joyfully told everyone about their experience until everyone in the Judean countryside heard about the birth of the Messiah. But even then, there is no record that anyone else, including the religious leaders of the day, came to see Jesus.
They probably figured they didn’t need Him. They were self-righteous. And they were indifferent. They thought they had it all figured out. But they didn’t. And neither do we. How can we take God – the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and put Him in our box? Do we think we have God so figured out that He becomes predictable or worse familiar to us?
Like in marriages, familiarity leads to complacency and eventually we take each other for granted. Relationships with our spouses like with God are an adventure. We seek out new things to learn of the other. We do the same with God. He is knowable to a point, but He is still God.
The Christmas story centers around this truth from John 1:14 (MSG): “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” That is the real message of Christmas. May we, in this busyness we call Christmas, not miss out on our Savior as the religious leaders did.
- Is it easy or tempting to miss Jesus during the Christmas season? Why or why not?
- How does the familiarity of the Christmas story make it hard for us to be challenged by its message?
- What can we do this week to ensure we don’t miss Christmas?