Christmas Eve 2014
Seekers and sulkers
THE BIRTH of a baby in a cave on the outskirts of a small settlement in Judea impacted the parents and family, disturbed Bethlehem itself and also had an effect on people further away.
Some were seekers – people who knew the birth of a king and spiritual leader had been foretold. Some were those who, whether it had been foretold or not, didn’t want it being a threat to them: not in my back yard. The world then and its politics of power and control was not so very different to the world now.
Many evangelists would say that the obstacle to people receiving the Good News of God in Jesus is, strangely, the church itself. It is almost as if another route has to be found. Think back to Billy Graham’s visits to England from the 1950s which made spiritual conections with millions. However, those connections had to be made in a different way and in different places from church, starting with the Haringay Arena and moving on in the 1980s to football stadiums.
Back at the time of Jesus’ birth, people who had studied the Scriptures and who knew what the prophets like Isaiah and Micah had foretold were to be found less than a couple of hours’ walk north, in the city of Jerusalem. This was where the scribes and priests and men of learning all resided.
They were the ones who would have understood the message brought by the angels and what was fulfilled in the scene in the cave – but educated people didn’t talk to mere shepherds.
Herod and the rulers of the people got to hear, but did not welcome the news. Herod’s way with anyone who presented any kind of threat was to kill them off. This attack, the slaughter of the baby boys, came a little later, although we tend to roll it all together into the nativity story.
Also affected by the birth were some who, in a way, had no business to be seeking the King of the Jews. These were the Magi, the astrologers and ‘wise men’ who travelled from Persia or further east. They were successors of the Magi of Daniel’s time 400 years earlier.
The Magi – the same word is used in the Greek translation of the O.T. – were part of the court of Nebuchadnezzar and called to interpret his dreams. Only Daniel, in exile in Persia, could explain the dreams and in due course he was appointed to high office, over all the astrologers and other advisors. The Magi who much later visited Jesus from Persia were ‘wise men’ in that same tradition, the tradition that had been influenced by Daniel and no doubt heard from him the prophecies of the Messiah from well before his time.
Those who should have been seeking weren’t, and those whose religion should have had them ignoring the whole thing, were the ones who were seeking.
• Where do you stand this Christmas? Are you seeking or sulking, looking for more of His life or holding on to your own?