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.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” — Matthew 2:1-20
A few years ago, a clergy colleague shared about a friend of hers who was driving in traffic down a street in Michigan, when an inflatable plastic baby Jesus in a manger suddenly blew out into the middle of the highway in front of her. Her question? What do you do when an inflatable Jesus appears in your way?
It’s not an easy decision. Realizing that the over-commercialization of Christmas is really putting lives in danger, do you run him over, recycle him, and become a voice for simplifying Christmas? Do you make a U-turn, go back and save Jesus by deflating him and putting him in the back seat your car because that’s what Jesus would do for you? Or do you simply move him off the road and let him rest and recover along the shoulder?
More importantly, what will you do with the real Jesus today, on this Christmas Eve?
Jesus is not afraid to be involved in the dirty, messy places of our lives. On this holiest of days, Jesus comes to you wherever you are. Jesus comes to you tonight, offering grace and hope and filling you with the courage to embody God’s peace in a broken world. Jesus comes to you tonight, inspiring you to hit the streets and reach out to those who are struggling. Jesus comes to you tonight, nudging you to offer a kind word or a hug to someone whose deepest need is to know that Jesus loves them.
Who is this baby Jesus, anyway? O, rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.
On this Christmas Eve, we are filled with joy, for we have heard good news of great joy. We are filled with love, for we have tasted the sign of God’s great love. And we are filled with hope, for the angels still sing in our world and there is a Light for us to follow. Amen.
By: Bishop Laurie Haller