Angels heralded the news of His birth.
Shepherds came to see Him freshly swaddled.
A couple old people in the temple lingered long to cherish the moment of his dedication.
Foreign astrologers brought gifts for royalty and bowed in worship.
But largely his birth was missed, this one born King of the Jews.
Herod was caught off guard, as were the religious leaders and scribes. They knew the text well that predicted his birth but they weren’t expecting it any time soon. They had no felt need of a Savior. They were in power in their little realms…A king would threaten their dominion.
He would be born in a stable, make His triumphal entry on a humble donkey, and wear a crown of thorns at His coronation—this King of the Jews. He had come to save His people from their sins, Mt.1:21 not their Roman overlords. It seems that only those who perceived themselves in need of a Savior were on the scene to welcome Him.
The lowly shepherd outcasts seemed an unlikely welcoming committee, but then again, maybe not. They weren’t pre-occupied with important business or illusions of being indispensible cogs in a very busy gear box! And most importantly they weren’t blind to the wonder of a night sky bright with angels.
Two tottering old folks, Simeon and Anna, whose physical vision was likely beginning to dim with age, seemed unlikely to recognize Him. And yet they lived focused on the hope of their Messiah’s coming—the ‘consolation of Israel’, ‘the redemption of Jerusalem’ Lk.2:25ff. They were assured that they would live to see the day. And here it was, their King was born and they got to see Him!
This term of Simeon’s, ‘consolation’, is intriguing. It is the same Greek root used of the Holy Spirit Himself, the “Comforter”, whom Jesus would send to abide with his followers for ever (Jn.14:16). This same Spirit who led Simeon into the temple to meet His Messiah and to bless him and his parents, was the One who would Comfort and seal the Redemption of all who place their hope of salvation in the Messiah. Wonderful.
And what of those mysterious strangers riding into Jerusalem in search of a newborn King? How did they know he had been born? Were there legends in their histories of the great God of the Hebrew people? The One who sent plagues on Egypt, who fought Israel’s enemies, who dwelt in their Temple and received their sacrifices, making them prosper or fall according to their allegiance. Had they heard of His renown? They saw the star. They knew its meaning. And they came to worship.
What are we to make of these gifts? Gold is of course fitting for a King. But frankincense? It was always to accompany the meat offerings in the Temple. Its sweet savor was pleasing to God. Did the ‘wise men’ know? Did their gift foreshadow the offering of this Lamb of God for the sins of the world in just a few years time?
Then there was the myrrh (literally, “Smyrna”), a bitter gum exuding from incisions in a certain tree’s bark. It was a costly perfume and an antiseptic. It would be practical for skinned knees and wounds. But it was more. Myrrh was used for embalming. When Nicodemus prepared Jesus’ body for burial he would use 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. Jn.19:39,40 What more fitting gift for the King of the Jews, the Savior who would be crucified and buried, but whom the tomb could not retain!
This Jesus, “being found in human form…” come to save His people from their sins is the Christmas story. But somehow I can’t stop there, with salvation left suspended in time. It’s all that Simeon saw of it. And he was content to die in peace. But we are privileged to see so much more of the story unfolded, how He “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” , and how “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name…” Here’s where we stand in the story of redemption, given the choice to welcome this King as our King while it is yet optional.
We get to join with the shepherds and ‘wise men’ and the faithful few, like Anna and Simeon, who eagerly awaited their Redemption. For we are a waiting people too. The rest of the Plan has not been fulfilled, the part that says “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil.2:8-11 Then Redemption will be complete. One can only imagine how the angels will be singing then!
And the words of an old cantata I sang as a kid ring in my ears: “The King is coming, The King is coming, Praise God, He’s coming again!” We are people with reason to rejoice and to worship. Our sins which are many have been forgiven. Our salvation is just on the horizon—
And if you are needing an interlude from all the Christmas busyness, may I suggest this turn of heart—“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…” Ps.103—It will do wonders.
“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Heb.9:28
“For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Gal.5:5
‘…when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…” II Thess.1:10