Peninsula Community Church
December 11, 2016
Matthew 2:1-4, 7-8, 16 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; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born… Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him… Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
I have shared before about how much I love the Christmas season. I love the festivities, the food, the surprises, the decorations, and in particular I love Christmas movies. There are so many great movies in this season. There are some that are really fun. There are some that have more serious but so many have themes that speak to the true meaning of Christmas. I love “Its a Wonderful Life” and how it portrays how our lives impact others. I love the “Christmas Carol” as it speaks to the redemptive power of forgiveness and that no one is ever so far gone that their life cannot be impacted positively by the message of Christmas. Another favorite of mine is “The Grinch that Stole Christmas.” I particularly love the one that stars Jim Carrey. The reality is Dr. Seuss had it right. No matter what you do, the Christmas Spirit cannot be stolen or killed.
Most of us are familiar with the storyline of the “Grinch that Stole Christmas.” According to the Jim Carrey version, the grinch had been an outcast of Who-ville. Because this happened at Christmas time, he despised Christmas and the people of the town. Because of his disgust, he planned and connived a way to steal Christmas in order to kill the Christmas spirit. One night he swoops into town and steals all of the presents, the ornaments, the food, and everything related to Christmas. A miraculous thing happens however, instead of weeping and crying, the people of Who-ville begin to sing. The music traveled to the mountain top where the Grinch lived and his heart begins to grow and beat with life again. While Dr. Seuss’ Grinch is a wonderful story, it is not the first story of someone trying to steal or kill the Christmas spirit. In our reading today, we find that Herod was guilty of just such an action.
In our story, the wise men are on their way to visit the new born king who was born almost two years earlier. On their journey, they stopped to ask for directions and Herod caught the ear of the wise men. He connived to have the wisemen find the baby Jesus and then return to report to Herod where this baby was, because he wanted to take Him out. The wise men were unaware of this scheme until the angel spoke to them. You see Herod’s goal was to eradicate the baby Jesus who was now a threat to his kingship.
In this story, we find the remarkable contrast between one who exalts himself as king and the true King of the universe. How desperate and diluted do you have to be to want to kill a baby because you are afraid of him? How diluted can you be to be jealous of a little child? But that was the condition of Herod’s heart and his mind. He was afraid because Jesus was the King of the Jews. Herod was the ruler. He was the king and he wanted everyone to know that. Herod was aware of the prophetic words that had been spoken about the one that was to come to save the world and he knew if he did not do something his kingship would be threatened.
The wise men refused to cooperate with Herod as they had been directed by God to travel home a different way to avoid another encounter with him. The result was that Herod was angry and he decided that all of the male children born at approximate time Jesus was born would be slaughtered so as to wipe out any hope of a new king being established. Mary and Joseph received a word from God that this was going to happen and they moved to Egypt where they were to stay until it was safe to return home. He could not kill Christmas!
It is noteworthy here that we seldom see this side of the Christmas story around the manger. This is the dark side of the story and it is a reminder there are things at work to destroy and kill the Christmas spirit in our hearts and in our lives but that is not how it has to be. In the end, we find there were two kings but there was only one winner. As we know now Herod died but Jesus lived. Herod exerted his physical power but God exerted His godly power to overcome the works of darkness. Herod could not fight against the king of the world.
The story of Herod took place some 2000 years ago but the fact is there is still a move to steal and kill the Christmas Spirit. Every year there is a Herod or a Grinch that tries to steal or kill the spirit of Christmas. The bottom line, however, is that no matter what people say or do they cannot remove Christ from Christmas. This is because He resides in our hearts and not in the decorations, the gifts, or the trappings of Christmas. There are so many things that come at us to steal the Christmas spirit. The Grinch thought that by stealing the gifts, the ornaments, the decorations, and the food that somehow he could steal their joy and expression of hope. Herod thought that by killing Jesus, Christmas would be over and done with. In the story of the Grinch, instead of losing heart we find the residents of Who-ville standing with their hands clasped and singing the songs of Christmas. The point is, you can take the decorations, destroy the gifts, and smash the ornaments but you cannot take the spirit of Christmas from our hearts.
No matter what happens Jesus is still the King and the Lord over all of heaven and over all of the kingdoms of this world. Later in the story of Jesus’ life, we find that the leaders of the Roman government and the Jewish leaders of His day all tried to destroy the message of Christ but you can kill the body but you can not destroy the message. That is what Herod thought he could do but the king of Heaven will always be victorious. He will always come out on top.
The idea of trying to kill or steal Christmas is not something new and it certainly has not gone away over the years. It is still an issue we face today. There are Christmas killers all around us. The first one is materialism. Materialism is an unhealthy focus on things and money rather than on the Christ of Christmas. When we become more focused on the trappings of Christmas than the Christ of Christmas, we have a big problem. Materialism will destroy the Christmas spirit before we know it. Materialism out of control presents itself as a ungrateful heart and an unsatisfied heart. It is a binding force because we can never do enough or have enough stuff.
The second Christmas killer is misplaced emotions. The Christmas season has the power to illicit so many emotions. There are happy and joyful emotions but there also the emotions of sadness, anger, jealously, and other such emotions that can kill the spirit of Christmas. Many of these emotions are real and they are justified because of the experiences we have faced. However, when we get sucked into the negative emotions we encounter, the Christmas spirit can be killed. Herod was sucked into an emotional issue that effected his ability to think clearly and process information appropriately. We make hard core statements and decisions such as I will never go their house again. I am not going to talk with them again and on and on it goes. The result of these decisions too often is a lost Christmas spirit. We isolate in an unhealthy way thinking that this will teach them a lesson when we are the ones that are most often hurt in the process.
The third Christmas killer is stress. Stress is a killer in more ways than one and stress can rob us of the joy that is a part of this festive season of joy, peace, and love. So many of us understand how this works. There are gifts to buy, food to prepare, cards to write, people to invite, and on and on it goes. Finances are tight and we have to buy Uncle Johnny that gift or he will never forgive us. We become stressed out before we get to enjoy the beauty of the season.
The third Christmas killer I will call busyness. This is a time of the year where we get so busy with the activities and events of Christmas that we miss the guest of honor at our activities and events. We can be so busy celebrating the season that we fail to recognize Jesus as the King of this world. After all He is the reason we celebrate. He is the King of the world. Jesus referred to this as the cares of this world. It is where we have been planted in the right soil but the activities of life begin to control the outcome of our life and we fall short of His glory. Our motives are good but the fruit is wrong. Rather than focusing on the Savior, we focus on the celebration to the point that we miss the Savior.
So what do we do? First, we must choose to worship the King. Rather than having a heart of Herod, we must have the heart of the wise men who came to worship the King. The wise men chose to worship God as the King of Kings. We too must make a choice to worship Christ, the King of this world. We must release our busyness, our anxiety, our materialistic attitude to God and focus our attention on the Savior. We must also recognize that Christmas is not the wrappings, decorations, cookies, gifts, or food; it is the birth of Christ. Nothing can destroy the spirit of Christmas if we choose to worship Him.
I love the closing to the “Grinch that Stole Christmas.” At the end of Dr Seuss’ book he makes this revolutionary statement about the people of Who-ville. And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! “It came without packages, boxes or bags!” And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” And what happened then…? Well…in Who-ville they say That the Grinch’s small heart Grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight, He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he… …HE HIMSELF…! The Grinch carved the roast beast! (Source, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Dr. Seuss, 1957)
As we close this message today I realize that for many of us we will experience Christmas in a different way. For some, the spirit of Christmas has been stolen because we have lost sight of the meaning of Christmas. For others, we can become too focused on the trappings, the gifts, the meals, and all the other things related to Christmas that we have missed the spirit and reason for the season. For others, we become consumed with the busyness of the season that we don’t have time to really celebrate. For others, the emotions we have experienced rob the Christmas spirit from our heart. We are afraid. We feel a loss. We are angry with life.
But at the end of it all there is nothing that can rob Christmas from our hearts when we focus on Him who is the King of the World. Herod is dead but Christ is alive. Too often we try to take things out of the hands of the true king and try to deal with them in our own way, but we must never forget that He is still the King. He is the reason for the season!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom