By Matt Gordon
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 2:1-2-3
Herod’s problem wasn’t belief. He believed that Jesus had been born. He had no problem buying that a miraculous birth came with miraculous features—a star declaring Jesus’ coming. Herod probably didn’t get twisted in knots about a virgin birth or about old prophecies. Herod’s problem wasn’t belief.
It was pride.
Herod was a ruler. In his mind, he was the ruler. There was a single throne and it was his. There was no way he was going to let some upstart challenger usurp his rule, his power, his dominion.
In the passage, too, Herod wasn’t alone for “he was troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him.” Jesus’ arrival challenges every person, every heart. Every person is either willing to bow or must be willing to completely kill the idea—the person—of Jesus. There is only one throne.
Christmas, you see, isn’t about a baby. Yes, unto us a baby is born, but that is no ordinary baby—it is the newborn king. And if Jesus is the coming-King, the ruler of all the worlds, the throne is his. Christmas is about realizing a shift in authority. That we’ve given life a try our way. We’ve tasted the forbidden fruit, been banished east of Eden, and we’ve wandered toward a Promised Land. We’ve fought and raged and thought and built and dreamed. Yet all of our efforts—our science and Rome and Renaissance and wealth—have left us impoverished. We are not enough; this world we’ve built isn’t enough either. We are unfit to rule the world.
We believe that and will look to another, or we trust our own pride and wave Jesus away with our feckless scepter.
There are others in this passage, after all. They are called “the wise men.” Fitting, that name. They search for Jesus—they seek him out. They travel great distances to find this future ruler. And when they find him? They brandish neither sword nor ill-will toward him. They do not wrestle with his meager stature or miraculous accompaniment. They do not try to thwart this plan of God’s. They go, instead, to worship him.
That is the invite of Christmas. That we can lay our pride down, take up our gifts, and travel great lengths to see the newborn King. And once before that tender ruler, we can bow, knowing that he will lift us forever up to new blessed heights. That in him, we will find rest and deliverance and hope. That truly, when my pride is left behind, I can see him and feel the joy he brings to all the world.
Christmas isn’t just about a baby. Away in that manger is the coming-king, ruler of all the worlds; the throne is wonderfully his.