Why is Christmas so scary? What it’s really about. 2   Recently updated !


Why is Christmas so scary?

person wondering "Why is Christmas so scary?"

Christmas.  It’s the time when we hear so much about how it brings out the best in people.  It’s time to give gifts.  It’s time to be nice to other people.  All those things.

Scary stuff – isn’t it?

And then there’s the baby – Jesus – the true “reason for the season”.
A little baby.
Very scary.

Don’t laugh.
It’s true.


Updates

This has been updated a couple times, including the new title – Why is Christmas so scary? And, what it’s really about.

This one’s originally from 2011.  So – since we’re rapidly approaching one of the scariest times of the year for some people, it seems like a good time to update it again.

Unlike most other updates, this is almost a rewrite, so I haven’t marked the latest ones.


Contents

A very scary Christmas

Christmas.  It’s the time when we hear so much about how it brings out the best in people.  It’s time to give gifts.  It’s time to be nice to other people.  All those things.

Scary stuff – isn’t it?

And then there’s the baby – Jesus – the true “reason for the season”.
A little baby.
Very scary.

Don’t laugh.
It’s true.

When Jesus was first born

The Visit of the Magi

Mt 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Mt 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 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. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

Mt 2:6 “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’’”


Note:  The prophecy is from Micah, who lived from 742 BC to 687 BC.  More on Micah at bottom of page.

Mt 2:7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Mt 2:9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Escape to Egypt

Mt 2:13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Mt 2:14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Mt 2:16 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. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

Mt 2:18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”


Note:  The prophecy is from Jeremiah, who lived from 626 BC to 586 BC.  More on Jeremiah at bottom of page.  

The note will cover not only the verse from which Mt 2:18 comes, but will also look the verses before and after.  They show why this event should not be so scary for Christians.  It looks at what the verse below means and why it isn’t as mean as it might sound.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
Jer 31:16 This is what the LORD says:  “Restrain your voice from weeping  and your eyes from tears,


Fear of Christmas – before anything even happened.

This is fear.  The great King Herod was afraid.  Someone willing to kill innocent babies was afraid.  All the boys two years and younger had to die because the king was afraid.

Mt 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

Not only was the king afraid, but “all of Jerusalem with him”.  Why?

Here’s something from The Pulpit Commentary that helps to explain.

He [Herod] was troubled; perplexed, agitated (ἐταράχθη). Fully in accordance with his jealous and suspicious character. For he had already slain, as actual or possible candidates for the throne, five of the Maccabean princes and princesses, including his favourite wife Mariamne (thus extirpating the direct line) and also his two sons by Mariamne. Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 17:02. 4; cf. Holtzmann) mentions a prediction of the Pharisees towards the end of Herod’s life, that “God had decreed that Herod’s government should cease, and his posterity should be deprived of it.” 

Herod was paranoid.  He also proves the old saying, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get you”.  But Herod went to extraordinary lengths to try to make himself feel safe.  After what he’d already done, is it any wonder that he was capable of doing something even worse?

But why were the people afraid of this little baby? 

And all Jerusalem. The feminine (here only, πᾶσα Ἰεροσόλυμα) points to a Hebrew source. The reason for the inhabitants of Jerusalem feeling troubled is generally explained, by their fear, which was in fact only too well justified by experience, that the news would excite Herod to fresh crimes.  2)http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/2-3.htm

Oh.  The people weren’t afraid of the little baby.  They were afraid of Herod!  And rightfully so.

Did no one know about the prophecy?

One thing that strikes me through all of this is that no one seemed to know the prophecy except these Magi.  It’s not likely the Magi would even have been aware of Jewish prophecy.  SO what’s going on?

Origin and Symbolism of the Magi

Various traditions connect the magi with Arabia, Babylon, or Persia. They represent humans of all ages, from all continents, giving gifts appropriate to royalty, divinity, and death.

“Magi” originally referred to priests in Persia (fifth century BC), who were traditionally associated with secret wisdom, magic, and astrology. In time, people of any ethnicity or location were called magi if they were involved in similar practices.

Matthew does not specify the number of magi, give names, or call them kings; legends eventually supplied such details. Tertullian, referring to Psa 72:10 in Against Marcion III.13, was the first to imply that the magi were kings. Origen specified the number three, based on the three gifts (Hom. Gen. 14.3). This was widely accepted in the Western church in the 600s (Unterberger, “Magi,” 712).

Matthew says that the magi came “from the east” (Matt 2:1). Justin and Tertullian claimed this referred to Arabia, Jerome and Augustine said Babylon, and Clement of Alexandria and John Chrysostom claimed the magi were from Persia (Davies and Allison, Matthew, 228). The gifts of frankincense and myrrh suggest an origin in Arabia (Maalouf, “Were the Magi,” 438–41). Psalm 72:10–11 and Isa 60:6 might foretell their visit, although Matthew does not cite any fulfillment for the visit of the magi.

Augustine suggests that the magi represented the Gentile world. They generally are assumed to be Gentiles, showing Gentile acknowledgement of the Messiah. However, Matthew does not specify, so it is possible that they were Jews (Sim, “The Magi: Gentiles or Jews?”).  3)Morrison, M. D. (2016). Melchior. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Were the Magi Jewish?

While that last sentence states the possibility of the Magi being Jewish, there’s definitely a question of “how Jewish”?  This question has to be asked, given the meaning of the word in Greek.

3097 μάγος [magos /mag·os/] n m. Of foreign origin 7248; TDNT 4:356; TDNTA 547; GK 3407; Six occurrences; AV translates as “wise man” four times, and “sorcerer” twice. 1 a magus. 1A the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc. 1B the oriental wise men (astrologers) who, having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship him. 1C a false prophet and sorcerer.  4)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

If these Magi were Jewish, it’s reminiscent of Elymas the sorcerer, from Acts.

Ac 13:6 They [Barnabus and Paul] traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.”

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

So, while it’s technically possible that Magi were Jews from the east, it’s not likely.  Given that the Magi were welcomed and written about in a good way by Matthew rather than be treated as the sorcerer was in Acts.  Those who believe the Magi were indicative of Gentiles are much more likely to be correct. 

And now we have the answer to the earlier question of what’s going on with the Magi being on the scene.  It’s God letting us Gentiles know that we are welcomed into His family.  That’s not something to be afraid of.  And yet, many of us are.

back to “why is Christmas so scary?”

So – some little baby was born and the king was afraid.  Obviously – he was scared.  And he was willing to kill to overcome his fear.

But it didn’t work.  The baby didn’t die.

Mt 2:13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Mt 2:14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The baby didn’t die.  Because God can take care of Himself.

So – why was Herod so afraid?

Because it was the beginning of the end.
His end.  The end of his reign. or so he thought.
In reality, Jesus wasn’t here to overthrow Herod.  He was here to overthrow Satan.


Fast forward now to many years later.  The baby is now a man, and He has just raised Lazarus from the dead.

More people get fear of Christmas – before Christmas is celebrated.

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Jn 11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Here we have the Jewish leaders doing something very similar to what Herod had tried to do earlier – kill Jesus.
They were also afraid.  Afraid that they would lose their Jewish nation, because if there was too much trouble the Romans would crush them.  Afraid that they would lose their power over the people, because Jesus was claiming to be God and turning the people away from them and all the rules they had put on top of God’s commandments.

And, as was the case with Jesus’ birth about 30 years earlier, they seem to be clueless as to the Messiah prophecies.  Here was the One they were waiting for.  Literally, ever since the fall.  While they may not have recognized it, those prophecies we saw from Micah and Jeremiah – as well as hundreds of others – went way back.  Not all the way back to the beginning.  But pretty close.  Not Chapter One.  But Chapter three isn’t that far away in their sacred scriptures.  And Chapter three is where they (and we) read this.

The Fall of Man

Ge 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

If you’re new to all of this, please click on the verse link above to read the part I left out.  

Ge 3:15 And I will put enmity  between you and the woman,  and between your offspring and hers;  he will crush your head,  and you will strike his heel.”

This isn’t “God said”, when He created everything.  But it is God saying something to the serpent after the Fall – when Eve and Adam ate from the tree God said would cause them to die die.  Yes – die die.  For more on that, check out Protected from the Bible – The Problem of Free Will.  

The Jewish leaders certainly knew of this passage.  Whether they didn’t recognize it or didn’t want to acknowledge it’s meaning, we don’t know.  But we are told of one particular Pharisee who had a private meeting with Jesus.

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

Jn 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Notice that even though Nicodemus wanted to meet with Jesus to learn, he had to do so under cover of darkness.  Things would not have gone well at all if the other Pharisees found out that one of their own wanted to learn from Jesus – the very One they were trying to kill.  

Also notice it says “we know you are a teacher who has come from God“. 

In the Greek, there is no word corresponding to “we”.  It’s assumed to be “we”.  If you’d like to see more on that, check out this note at the bottom of the page.

Jn 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’”

Jn 3:4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jn 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Jn 3:9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

Jn 3:10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

A more traditional Christmas verse:

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

But even here – there is fear of Christmas.

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Why is Christmas so scary?  Because people are afraid of The One who could forgive them and make a real change in their lives.  The fear is made even more sad because of the thinking that what is done in the dark isn’t already exposed.  For sure God has seen it, and in many cases other people know it as well – but keep quiet, unless their own secrets become known.

Back to “why is Christmas so scary?”

But again, it didn’t work.
Jesus didn’t die.

Jn 11:54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

Jesus didn’t die.  Because God can take care of Himself.

So why were they so afraid?

Yes – again it was the beginning of the end.
Their end.  The end of the reign for the Jewish leaders..  Or so they thought.
In reality, Jesus wasn’t here to overthrow the Jewish leaders.  He was here to overthrow Satan.


Fast forward a few more years.

Jesus has been crucified.  He’s dying on the cross.  Some are celebrating – mocking Him.  They finally reached their objective.

Jesus’ Death

Lk 23:44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice,“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Lk 23:47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Or did they?

But still, He’s dead,  Isn’t He?

The Resurrection

Lk 24:1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

So it still didn’t work.
Jesus is still alive.  Because God can take care of Himself.


Easter – The end of pretending the One Little Baby didn’t matter?

Now – it’s really the beginning of the end.
The beginning of the end of Satan’s reign.

Up to the point where Jesus is born, maybe Satan can convince himself that all this prophecy stuff is just nonsense.  Fear tactics.  None of it’s really going to happen.

But it does happen.  Jesus is born.
And that’s what we’re celebrating with Christmas.

And that’s cause for fear.  Fear for those who don’t want to believe.

After Jesus dies, and after He rises again, that would be what we now call Easter.  Yet another cause for fear presents itself.  One more chance to say that it’s all God making up stories goes by the wayside for Satan.  The end is nearer than ever.

By now, one would think Satan would pretty much know this isn’t all just talk.  There has to be something to it.

Whether that’s true or not, we don’t know.  Maybe Satan does know and he just wants to take as many of us with him as possible.  Maybe he really doesn’t believe it.  Who knows?  Certainly not us.

But the one thing that remains for us, well, for some of us, is fear.

Fear of Christmas.
Fear of Christmas for people like Herod and the Jewish leaders – who are in a position of power and don’t want to lose it.
Fear of Christmas for people who believe what others tell them – who don’t want to believe that Jesus is real.
Fear of Christmas for people who are under the control of Satan – who don’t want to believe that Jesus is real.
Fear of Christmas because of fear of the unknown, even if the unknown is better than the known.


And so we have all sorts of things to distract us from what Christmas is really about.

Why is Christmas so scary for (some) Christians?

We have Christmas trees and arguments over whether it’s OK to put one up on public property because it might be promoting religion.

We have Santa Claus, who was recently in hot water when a group of firemen was told that they can’t dress up like Santa and give presents at a school because it would be a violation of the “separation of church and state”.  Seriously?  Santa Claus is now part of Christianity?  BTW – this was changed, so the fire department can dress up like Santa.  Good grief.

These are just two examples – there are so many more.

But I bring them up to make a point.  It’s to give us an idea from what Jesus Himself said.  And from what we’ve seen God is capable of doing –

a lesson for us from Jesus

When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the Word, He included the following statement –

Mt 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Mt 10:11 “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Let me paraphrase this.

If the people you encounter are not deserving – let your peace stay with you.
If you are not welcome – just leave.
Remain innocent and peaceful.
God can take care of Himself.
When the time comes, God will take care of everything.

Why is Christmas so scary, even though Jesus says “do not be afraid”?

A little later in the same words that Jesus has for His disciples as they are about to go among the people, He also says –

Mt 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

And to paraphrase this segment:

Don’t worry about things that may kill you here on earth, worry about the things that will take your soul.
You are important to the Father.  Remember that.

So when we encounter things like fights over Santa Claus and Christmas trees, remember what’s really important.  Remember how we are told to respond.

Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

as innocent as doves.

God can, and will, take care of Himself.


Today’s politicians as present day Herod’s?

We looked at Herod earlier.  What about our leaders today?  I’ve often written about the political leadership here in the U.S. as they relate to God and the Bible.  For instance, there’s Do we have the leader we deserve, need, or both?  

Jesus would have had problems with the way Herod dealt with the Jewish people.  The way he treated them, stealing money from the Temple, his own personal life – there would have been many, many issues.  But then, Jesus didn’t overthrow the Roman Empire.  He could have, but that wasn’t His purpose on earth.  Jesus could also have overthrown Herod, but He didn’t.  That wasn’t His purpose either.  So Herod, out of fear, killed all those little children for no reason.  On top of that, he failed to kill his target – Jesus.

Today, our politicians obviously aren’t out to literally kill Jesus.  That’s been tried.  it failed.  Now, it’s more subtle.  They pretend to be Christian and to represent Christians, all the while saying they represent “every American”.  This is just impossible.  But it does lead too many away from the truth.

Look at what Paul wrote in Romans.

Living Sacrifices

Ro 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This is but one of many verses that tell of the differences between true followers of Jesus and those who are not.  

And then there is this from Jesus.

Treasures in Heaven

Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Yes, that last one talked about money, but that’s because money is the root of all kinds of evil.  It’s not the only cause, but the biggest.  And again, it points out the difference between the true followers of Jesus and everyone else. 

As verse 24 points out – we cannot serve two masters.  Politicians cannot serve both Christians and non-Christians and do it “right”.  But rather than learn the lessons from the Old Testament about leaders who tried to follow God, they do things their own way.  And in a manner not unlike the Christmas tree debate, we Christians get caught up trying to pick and choose among the politicians who claim to be Christian and claim to be “for us”.


All of this pits Christian against Christian

Person against person – denomination against denomination.  Which sounds a whole lot like something else Jesus said.

Lk 11:17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?”

Yes, the context is different.  But is the message any less applicable?  It absolutely describes what happens to us when we get caught up in anybody else’s concerns about “why is Christmas so scary?  It’s sad that things like this happen over Christmas.  

We need to remember it’s about the One Little Baby.  But we also need to remember what the One Little Baby told us after He grew up.  And, we need to remember what His Father told us in the Old Testament.  Not to mention what the New Testament authors wrote at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Christmas is about a whole lot more than the birth of Jesus.  It’s about getting over the feeling that Christmas is scary.  Speaking of which, why is Christmas so scary?  It’s so scary because we forgot what the Bible keeps trying to tell us – do not be afraid.


Christmas – a celebration of the beginning

Christmas is a celebration of the beginning.  The beginning of the life of Jesus.  The beginning of God taking care of His own, through Jesus.  The beginning of Himself in human form – as Jesus.

Those who are afraid of this, they don’t need our anger.  They don’t need our outbursts against them.  They need our example.  And they need our prayers.

I still have a problem with this sometimes.  I used to be really upset over some of these things.  I still am sometimes, but not as much as before.

Then this morning I’m walking the dogs and feeling like I should write this article.  Like there’s something in it to get out to people.  Now I realize there’s still some of this for me too.

Now at the end, I’m reminded of the ever popular arguments over whether it’s OK to have nativity scenes on public property.

Let me ask that a little differently.  Is it necessary to have them on public property?  We are allowed to have them on church property.  We are allowed to have them on private property.  Is it really necessary to have them on public property?  Is it even worth fighting over?  Or are we being caught up in yet another trap to keep us from the real meaning of Christmas?

<Note – this is from the point of view of people in the U.S. In some parts of the world, putting up a nativity scene even on private property could get one killed. That’s a whole different story – and evidence of just how scared some people are.>

Is it an argument designed to keep us from being as innocent as doves?

This type of trap was laid for Jesus.

Paying Taxes to Caesar

Mt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Mt 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

Mt 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Mt 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

And there’s a message here for us too.

Be shrewd.

Be innocent.

Be Christ like.

Be Christian.


Note:  Just want to point out that Jesus is speaking to the Jewish leaders here – calling them hypocrites.  This type of speech is not something he used with “regular” people.  In other words, I tend to think that He’d be calmly explaining to the “regular” Christians – those not in leadership positions in the church – that being angry at non-believers for being against Christmas wasn’t right, and what they should really do and how they should react.  But for the leaders of His church – if appropriate – they would get the “hypocrite” word sent in their direction.  Because the leaders and the teachers – they should know better.


 

Jesus want to hug you – not scare you

After reading all of this, maybe you can see why something Jesus told the Jewish people in His time also applies to us today. 

Mt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’’”

The fact that this comes at the end of the section the NIV titles The Seven Woes is also appropriate to what we just read.  In spite of all the fear of Christmas that exists in the world, including for too many who claim to be Christians, this is what Jesus truly desires.  Not to give seven woes – or any woes.  Not to scare us.  but to gather your children [us] together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you [we] were not willing.

So be willing.  While you’re saying Merry Christmas to people, every time you say that, remember to let Jesus hug you.

That’s the real spirit of Merry Christmas!

 

 


References   5)All The Men Of The Bible; A Portrait Gallery and Reference Library of More Than 3000 Biblical Characters; Herbert Lockyer, D.D., D.Litt.; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

Micah

The Man of Strong Convictions

Micah prophesied during the reign of Jothan, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Mic. 1:1; Jer. 26:18). He was a younger contemporary of Hosea. He is called “the Morasthite” since he came from Moresheth Gath. Micah, unlike Isaiah, was no politician. He did not censure the habit of looking to Egypt or to Assyria for help. He denounces the depravity of the nation, and threatens the vengeance of God. Isaiah prophesied to royalty, Micah ministered to common people, the sort who heard Jesus gladly. Isaiah was a courtier; Micah, a rustic from an obscure town some twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem.

This would put Micah’s prophecy about 700 years before Jesus’ birth.  Personally, I’d think some people might find that scary – someone knowing hundreds of years before they happen, because God told them.

Micah was a man of strong convictions and corresponding courage, and as a true preacher, uncovered sin and pointed to the coming Christ. As a prophet he went against the stream and uttered truths the people did not want. For this he was consequently stoned—the usual lot of a faithful prophet. His cry, in essence, was:

Back to Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). In other words, back to the Messianic hope. Back to David, who did so much for the nation, and to whom God promised He would raise up the Messiah. Back to David, the constant ideal of the monarchy. The Messiah of Israel’s coming golden age would be like David.

Back to ethical righteousness (Mic. 6:8). Micah brushed aside all former ritual in favor of a righteousness given by God, and that had a heart for the need of others. It was a righteousness based upon God’s salvation.

Back to the prince of peace (Mic. 4:1-3; 5:2-7). Micah heralded the message that the reign of the Messiah was Israel’s only hope of peace. We know it to be the only hope of world peace. The Messianic predictions form the most significant passages in Micah.

Given this, a reference to Micah’s prophecy by Matthew is no surprise at all.

Source to Micah’s Prophecy in Matthew 2:6

A Promised Ruler From Bethlehem

Mic 5:1 Marshal your troops, O city of troops,
for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler
on the cheek with a rod.

Mic 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.’”

Mic 5:3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor gives birth
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.

Mic 5:4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.

Mic 5:5 And he will be their peace.

After three chapters of judgement and before two chapters of judgement, chapters four and five are meant to comfort God’s people.

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Jeremiah

The Man of Inconsolable Grief The Man of Inconsolable Grief 

This man who was born a priest but became a prophet by the divine call of God comes before us as one of the grandest men of Old Testament history. He was called to the prophetic office through a vision (Jer. 1:1, 4-16) and labored for some forty years. The book Jeremiah wrote gives us more details of his life, methods and work, as an Old Testament prophet, than of any other prophet. He is referred to as a son of Hilkiah, not only to distinguish him from others of the same name, but to prove that he was of priestly origin. He came from the priestly town of Anathoth, a name meaning, “answered prayers.” 

His call antedated his birth (Jer. 1:5), and he was consecrated to God before his birth. He was distinguished by his humility and native modesty. He felt he was a child and not mature enough to function as a prophet.

His sufferings. What sorrow and anguish were his (Lam. 1:12; 3:1). He was not permitted to marry (Jer. 16:2). Solitude was at once his penalty and greatness. Then we have his sad antagonisms (Jer. 1:18; 15:16, 17, 20; 20:1-18).

Jeremiah’s ministry was an intensely sad one and his song is in the minor key. His was a divine melancholy that made his head “waters” and his eyes a fountain of tears. The truths he had to proclaim were unwelcome and brought him enemies, but he carried out his task without fear or favor. In these days of national apostasy and international strife, the preacher could not do better than live near the Book of Jeremiah, which has, as its dominant note, true religion in heart and life, in church and nation.

Source to Jeremiah’s Prophecy in Matthew 2:18

Restoration of Israel

Jer 30:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. 3 The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,’ says the LORD.”

Jer 31:10 “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations;
proclaim it in distant coastlands:
‘He who scattered Israel will gather them
and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’

Jer 31:11 For the LORD will ransom Jacob
and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

Jer 31:12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD—
the grain, the new wine and the oil,
the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
and they will sorrow no more.

Jer 31:13 Then maidens will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

Jer 31:14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
and my people will be filled with my bounty,”
declares the LORD.

Jer 31:15 This is what the LORD says:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because her children are no more.”

Jer 31:16 This is what the LORD says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”
declares the LORD.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.

Jer 31:17 So there is hope for your future,”
declares the LORD.
“Your children will return to their own land.

Here’s the thing about this passage.  We read something like verse 16.

Jer 31:16 This is what the LORD says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,

It sounds like God is telling us to stop crying.  So we look it up in something simpler.  Or worse yet, we started with The Message.  Then we read this.

But God says, “Stop your incessant weeping,
    hold back your tears.”

 

Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds awful  It’s like we are little kids being scolded by God.

So we check out the Revised Standard Version, and we read this.

“Keep your voice from weeping,
    and your eyes from tears;

I still get the feeling we shouldn’t have been crying.  Crying must be the wrong response.  But that means don’t feel anything.  Not feeling anything seems wrong too.  So what does this verse really mean?

How about this, from the New Living Translation?

But now this is what the Lord says:
“Do not weep any longer,

I made a note to write something deeper on this topic later, but this is closer to the original Hebrew.  Crying, weeping, mourning, Etc. are not wrong.  However, there is a point at which it can be too much.  Saying “any longer” isn’t the same as saying don’t do it.  Depending on the translation we read, we get a very different message about how God looks at us when we mourn.  When the message is supposed to be one of providing comfort, saying “stop it!” just doesn’t work.

At any rate, I included that message here, because it’s equally wrong to just put in the passage about refusing to be comforted when the goal of the entire passage was to say that God is comforting someone who is “refusing to be comforted“.

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Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.

Rabbi, we know from John 3:2

As you can see, there’s an arrow under “we” pointing to “know”.  The “we” is assumed.  One of the references I found refers to a passage in Matthew with the same word, and a similar scenario.

Paying Taxes to Caesar Paying Taxes to Caesar 

Mt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

There are similarities, in that the Pharisees are involved, and because the same Greek word for “know” is used.  And, as with the passage in John, “we” is assumed.

However, this is one major difference.  The passage above really does have a number of people asking Jesus a question and saying, correctly, “we know”.  To use this passage to justify “we” in the case of a clandestine meeting between Nicodemus and Jesus could be stretching things a bit.  While there may be a desire to cast this belief onto the whole of the Pharisees, I don’t believe this is the place to do it.  

In John 3:10, when Jesus addresses Nicodemus and says, “You are Israel’s teacher”, the Greek word for “you” is singular.  This seems very much to be a conversation between two individuals.  I see no reason to think that either party intended it to be anything else.  None of the wording gives any indication of anything else.  Even later in the passage when Jesus says, “but still you people do not accept” – “you people” as also assumed.

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References   [ + ]

1, 5. All The Men Of The Bible; A Portrait Gallery and Reference Library of More Than 3000 Biblical Characters; Herbert Lockyer, D.D., D.Litt.; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
2. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/2-3.htm
3. Morrison, M. D. (2016). Melchior. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
4. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

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