“WAYS TO TREAT CHRISTMAS”                        By Pastor YAU

Matthew 2:1-11                                                          December 24, 2006

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   So many things, so little time: Christmas is a busy time for many people. There are so many things many of us want to do: going home to be with family, taking a trip to see old time friends, get out of town for a trip you always want to take. How about all the things you want to buy? All the food you plan to have? Parties you have been invited to go? The list goes on and on and it seems never ends. Many people, including some Christians, are so preoccupied by things that have very little, if any, to do with Christmas, the coming of Christ, the Savior.

2)   So many people, so few believers: Christmas is the most celebrated season in this country. But many people celebrate Christmas not the way it should be. Merchants celebrate the biggest time to make more money. Students celebrate the longest holiday without the burdens of school and home work. Many people will take trips to see family and friends. Many homes were decorated with glittering lights and ornaments. Even churches stage huge musical or drama programs with budgets of thousands of dollars. But how much is the real meaning in celebrating the coming of the Savior? Let us look at the people of the first Christmas and see how they respond to the coming of the new born king.

 

THE SEEKERS: (2:1-2)

1)    They were educated men: For many years, even today, there are still people who would think that only the uneducated or simple minded would seek to believe someone in a distant land of long ago time. They sincerely believe that if one would have enough education, they would know believe in God or a Savior is something learned men just won’t do. The Bible has different translations to call these men from Magi to astrologists, from kings to wise men. These were people ancient kings would seek their advice in making major decisions. They were highly learned people who could read stars and foretell future events. To assume that only the illiterate or the simple would seek to believe God and Jesus is just contradicts with facts ancient or modern.

2)    They were determined: It isn’t too hard to imagine the difficulties, the danger and the hardship these wise men would certainly have to travel from the east to Jerusalem. Most people believe it was the ancient Persian kingdom or even further east such as India or even China. How in the world could they find their way through the mountains, crossing the raging rivers, slept in wilderness no one had ever set feet before? I am sure there must be many of their family and friends who would make fun of them and had said things to ridicule them or to stop them from making the trip. But their determination had kept them going until they found what they believed to be true.

3)    They followed divine guidance: They saw the star from the east and followed its lead all the way through, unwavering and never have doubt. These were not simple minded people. They were highly educated with lots of brain. But they did not depend on their human intelligence nor life experience but on the leading star God had set before them to lead them to the new born Christ. Too many people could not find their way to believe God because they allow their human intelligence that gets in the way of seeking to know the God as a spiritual being. Jesus told us in plain language: “God is a spirit and whoever comes to worship Him must worship in spirit.” (John 4:24) No human brain is good enough to know God just as no animal brain is good enough to know man.

4)    They found what they sought for: The trip, the hardship, the time and the sacrifices they had made all paid off when they found what they sought for: the new born king of the Jews, the Savior. This is exactly what Jesus told his audients years later: “Seek and you shall find.” (Matthew 7:7-8) When God sent His Son into the world to become the sacrifice for the sin of men, He opened the path all men may find if he is sincere in seeking Him. In fact, God said, He was standing at the door of our hearts and continue to knock. If you will open your heart, He will come in. (Rev. 3:20) Whoever comes to the Lord will never be driven away. (John 6:37)

 

THE OPPONENTS: (2:3-4)

1)    Political opposition: The first person to fear or oppose the coming of baby Jesus was King Herod who was ruling the Jews at the time. When the wise men made the inquiry: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” that was the worst threat to King Herod. There can’t be 2 kings over the same people. Historically, political power hated and persecuted Christian faith is nothing new. Even today, there are still countries whose rulers are so much opposed to Christ and his church. But Christ and His church will last much longer than King Herod. No political power may overthrow the true kingship of Christ. Kings and kingdoms come and gone, but the Kingdom of God will last forever.

2)    Religious opposition: The chief priests and the scribes were the other group of people who opposed fiercely the coming of the king of the Jews. These were the people who enjoyed the power and prestige of Judaism and they certainly won’t accept any changes to the system. Today, we still see that same opposition and even persecution on Christian faith and Christians from religious groups and their leaders. It is no news to hear Christians were persecuted, churches were burned and Christians were discriminated against of in many countries because of religious restrictions and laws.

3)    Opposition from secularism: Secularism is a social ideology that opposes religion in general and Christian faith in particular in this country and around the world. The core idea of this force is: there is no God or we don’t need him if there is one. They oppose anything to do with religion or Christian faith from courts, schools, government property, shops, libraries, public places like parks and malls and all visible symbols anywhere besides churches. The City Council in Chicago voted on November 28 to remove a Nativity scene displayed in front of a plaza across the street of a court house. The reason was some people may be offended because it is the symbol of Christmas and it is too close to a court house.

4)    Opposition from immorality: Just as King Herod opposed the message of John the Baptist because of his personal immoral practices, many people oppose to Christian church and the message because of their immoral life practices. The most obvious are those who support gay activity and same-sex marriage and other illicit morally depraved life style. Others include those who support abortion on demand, including the partial birth abortion, without any regard on the dignity of human life. The sin of man has become a fierce force of opposition to the birth and rule of the Christ. Jesus mourned for the sins of Jerusalem in Matt. 23:37-39 reflects the present evil of man today. Many people oppose Jesus and His teaching because of their immoral mind and acts.

 

THE OPPORTUNITISTS:

1)    First, they were with Herod: “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed and all (the people in) Jerusalem (were disturbed) with him.” (2:3) The people in Jerusalem chose to take side with their king in their attitude on the birth of a new king of the Jews. Even though all the Jews knew that Herod was not a Jew and he got the position by bribery and murder, they chose to take side with the rich and powerful, the king. That is what many people of today do about Christmas. When secular force was so strong from the Supreme Court to local governments, many of the larger department stores forbad their employees from greeting customers “Merry Christmas” but substituted it with “Happy Holiday.” Teachers in schools removed Christmas carols from celebration events. Christmas trees were called “Holiday Trees” in public places. People of this kind never have the courage to stand for anything of conviction. They choose to stand with the trend.

2)    Then they were with Jesus: “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” (Matt. 21:8-9) After more than 3 years of ministry among the Jews in teaching, healing and performing miracles, Jesus was popular and powerful therefore the people shifted their loyalty to this new Rabbi than the old time king. That is what happens today: after strong protests voiced by most citizens mostly Christians, stores change their mind to allow “Merry Christmas” in their store decoration, advertisement, music and greeting to customers.

3)    Later, they were with the mobs: “It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. ‘Here is you king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, ‘Take him away, take him away. Crucify him!’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priest said.” (John 19:14-15) Given the changes of the wind, this kind of people will change again on how they may treat Jesus and Christmas. There is no commitment in their heart or conviction in their soul. All is about convenience and opportunity.

4)    Finally someone stands out: “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:7-8) Here is one man, a pioneer, a champion of loyal followers of Jesus who was born 2,000 years ago. Since then, millions have followed the same footsteps of Paul to remain faithful and steadfast on what they truly believe.

CONCLUSION:

1)     Choose where you stand: I don’t believe if anyone could stop the world from celebrating Christmas. What matters is where you stand and how will you treat Christmas and that baby Jesus.

2)     It is contagious: Whatever way you choose to treat Christmas will have ripple effects on people around you, either drawing people closer to the Savior or pushing them away from Him. Be wise.

3)     It’s never too late: If you never have had a personal relationship with Jesus before, you may choose to invite him into your heart now. He will become your Lord and Savior, directing your life today and give you eternal life after your journey on earth is done.