Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Missing the Crib

Based on Matthew 2:1-18

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 Christ was to be born….Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared….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.—Matthew 2:3, 4, 7, 16

Have you ever missed the crib? I’m not using missed as in feeling sentimental, experiencing a sense of longing or loss, about the crib. And not missed as in never meeting the infant God/man who was placed in the manger at birth, either, although that may be something for you to consider.

I’m talking about missed as in ignoring the crib, specifically the Holy One who was laid in the manger, overlooking the implications of the crib in living out a life of faith in Jesus. I think it’s easy to knock Herod when we begin thinking about missing the crib, but I wonder if we understand how easily we miss the crib as Christ-followers.

Consider that Jesus’ birth meant that God was intersecting human history in a new and unique way. No longer could it be claimed that God was far removed from His people. In Jesus, God came to be known as Immanuel, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus shared in our humanity, that we are of the same family, and that Jesus was made like us in every way, to the point of suffering when He was tempted, so that He understands our suffering and is able to help us when we are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18) In other words, Jesus "gets it" when we struggle to live the life Scripture talks about, and He is able to help us live by the Spirit's power.

So, here are some of the questions that I’ve been wrestling with

What are the circumstances in my life in which I am being tempted to live as if Jesus had never come to that manger crib? Where I don’t really give a rip about the babe in the manger, where I prefer to give in to the temptation to live my life as it the world revolves around me? Succumbing to “feel good” philosophies? To emotions like hopelessness, despair or anger?

Where am I tempted to live like Herod, misusing people to feed my own ego, instead of serving them? Taking out my emotions on them? Using them instead of caring for them?

Where am I misleading others, pretending to seek out spiritual truth, but only so that I can twist it for my own purposes? So that I can boastfully throw around Scriptural truth like the Pharisees without every humbling myself to the God who gave that truth?

Where am I mistreating others, attacking them with abusive or slanderous languageif not outright killing them by the swordin order to protect myself or build my own case, instead of seeing others through His eyes and speaking words that build them up?

For me, these have been hard questions this Christmas season, not just theoretical, abstract questions.

Do I really believe that Jesus came to the manger to usher in God’s kingdom, God’s rulership over all creation?

If so, then I have a responsibility to live my life in a way that reflects His presence within me. Maybe it means actually seeking to live so that it is evident that the Holy Spirit is at work within me, shaping me, transforming me into the image of Christ. Simple things like being characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and oh, let’s not forget, self-control. (Galatians 5:22,23)

Do I really believe the angel’s announcement of “on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests”?

If so, then I have a responsibility to work for reconciliation in the broken relationships in my life. (Matthew 5:9)

Do I really believe that Jesus gives me the power to live differently and that my life will reveal what I really hold dear, what I believe?

If so, then I have to wrestle with my spiritual condition this Christmas as it is revealed not just in the words I say, but in the things I do. (Matthew 12:33-35)

Like us, Herod was surrounded by every opportunity to find out about Jesus. He ruled in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish faith, surrounded by religious leaders and faithful people. But Herod wasn’t interested in the spiritual things.

Like us, Herod thought he had more important things to think about—he was caught up in the pull of power and position and making a name for himself. As far as he was concerned, other people existed only to serve him.

God’s plan broke through into Herod’s life through the Magi’s arrival. All of a sudden, Herod was aware that his ordered world was not secure.

In what way is God using unexpected circumstances in your life to get your attention? What is your response revealing about your faith?

How do you respond to Jesus’ arrival? Does His presence in the crib reshape your life, your relationships, your future? What difference does He want to make in your life and in the lives of those around you?

Or have you been missing the crib?

To view the worship celebration Bible study related to this article, go to

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