Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Matthew 2:1-2, ESV)
The season of Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Year’s Day brings many joys, but let’s be honest, it can also bring out the neurotic in us. We look forward to visits with family and friends, and then fret over what they think of us. We clean and decorate the house, and compare our house to other people’s houses. We cook and bake, and we want a certain reaction. We shop for just the right gifts and the right cards; we dress up for holiday parties, and we need people to be impressed. We want to make others happy, and we notice if they don’t respond as we’d like. We need attention paid to our efforts. The line between Christmas season and Crazy season is a thin one for flawed people like us.
In the person of Jesus Christ we meet a man who simply doesn’t play our game. He comes into the world having accomplished nothing, yet he is worshiped. He leaves the world having brought salvation, and is scorned. He walks his entire earthly journey, from incarnation to empty tomb, without the slightest need of our approval or praise. He knows who he is, he knows his mission, and he’s content to live only by his Father’s affirmation: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17).
In the person of Herod, in contrast, we see something startlingly familiar. He’s a king, yet so insecure that when he is troubled, “all Jerusalem” must be troubled with him. Talk about co-dependent! He’s like that brooding family member who sucks all the energy out of Christmas dinner. To use a modern phrase, for Herod it’s all about Herod. He’s so twisted in on himself, that the Christ child can only be a threat to him. We know him, don’t we? There’s a Herod in each of us, which is why we need the Savior.
Christ chose from all eternity to enter our world through an irregular family the neighbors thought not respectable. He was born in an insignificant town, away from the power-center of Jerusalem. He came a helpless baby, laid in an animal’s feed-box. Yet this is God’s way: the least are the greatest, the poor are rich, and the meek are given the earth as an inheritance. Jesus is the King who will lead his people, not merely control them, and he will never force them to mirror his feelings. The baby in the manger does not demand our worship, but evokes our worship as only an un-needy God could.
Come, Lord Jesus! By your Holy Spirit, put to death the ‘Herod’ in my soul, that I might be set free to live for you. Give me eyes to see what you’re doing in the world around me, so that I might be useful in your service. Enliven my heart and mind to understand your written Word. Amen.