The Scriptures present the miracle of Emmanuel, God with us, from a multitude of viewpoints and perspectives. Each viewpoint or perspective usually had some corresponding responses, some good and some not so good. Come and see:
An Age of Wonder
John the Baptist leaped for joy when he first met Jesus. But on the miraculous side of things, this was when John and Jesus were both in the wombs of their mothers! John’s mother said: “As soon as the sound of your greeting (Mary’s) reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44).
Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, was filled with the Holy Spirit when she first encountered Jesus. Again, this was when Jesus was still in the womb. Elizabeth’s response was to bless Mary and she blessed the child in Mary’s womb. But even more profound was when Elisabeth said: “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). Did you catch that? Elisabeth was acknowledging the baby in Mary’s womb as being her Lord!
A bunch of shepherds, out in the field keeping watch over their flock, were interrupted from their work when an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were filled with great fear; perhaps more to today’s wording, they were scared out of their minds. But the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). The shepherds hurried off to see the child. After seeing him, they returned to their fields and as they went, they gloried and praised God for all they had heard and seen, which were just as it had been told (Luke 2:20).
Simeon, a righteous and devout man, was moved by the Holy Spirit to enter the temple at the time when Jesus’ parents were bringing him to the temple to present him to the Lord. Simeon took the infant Jesus into his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Joseph and Mary, as they interacted with those who came into contact with Jesus, marveled at what was said about him (Luke 2:33).
Anna, a prophetess, a widow who never left the temple, encountered Jesus and his parents at the temple. She recognized who he was and gave thanks to God. But she didn’t just stop there, she spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).
Wise men came from the east looking for the one who has been born king of the Jews. They came to worship him and to give him gifts. And such gifts, gifts fit for a king! (Matt 2:1-2).
King Herod, having heard about the wise men visiting to see this king of the Jews, became troubled. And not only him, but all Jerusalem became troubled with him (Matt 2:3).
An Age of Vulnerability
Throughout history, ever since these accounts from the Scriptures, people have continued to have viewpoints and perspectives and their responses. To bring it up to our present time:
A friend of mine, a man who deeply loved the Lord, once described a conversation he had with a friend, an avowed atheist. The conversation was about spiritual things and occurred around the Christmas season. My friend’s friend was getting more and more worked up in his opposition to what my friend was saying. At one point, irate and frustrated, my friend’s friend finally blurted out: “Don’t talk to me around Christmas, that’s when I’m the most vulnerable.”
To bring further context to this remarkable conversation, my friend and his friend were both physics teachers at a local college. My friend’s deep faith allowed the Christmas miracles to overshadow science. My friend may have not used the exact same words as the shepherds, but he did glorify and praise God for all that the Scriptures had revealed about Jesus.
His friend, however, demonstrated an adherence to science that left no room for faith. He did not and could not allow for the miraculous. His view of Christmas was much like the response of King Herod and all Jerusalem – they were troubled. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, troubled is an agitation, a disturbance, a troubling of the mind of those in fear or perplexity. While my friend’s friend used the word vulnerable and not troubled, it is still likely that Christmas was causing great agitation and disturbance and perplexity to his carefully constructed world that left no room for the miraculous.
There is just something about Christmas, the temporal being confronted with the eternal, the finite being confronted with the infinite, the logical being confronted with the miraculous, that either elicits a response of glorifying and praising God or a response of being troubled and disturbed. Sometimes being troubled and disturbed remains and people, like Herod, react in foolish ways. But sometimes that very same state of being troubled and disturbed produces a vulnerability to the message of hope that Christmas brings.
While I wish I could say that my friend’s friend came to believe the Christmas story, I cannot. But I can say that those who are wise should respond with an inquisitive “where is the one who has been born king of the Jews”?
But even more so, may your heart respond with an “I have come to worship him.”