Summary: From the examples of Herod and the Wise Men, we can learn about how we should respond to the message and meaning of Christmas.
The gifts that the Magi brought to honor Jesus are often cited in any attempt to explain the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas. Too often, however, our focus at Christmas is more of the gifts we receive, rather than the Gift God gave.
A family celebrated Christmas each year by singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, baking a cake for Him, and set¬ting an extra chair at the table to re¬mind them of His presence. As Christmas Day was winding down, a friend asked the five-year-old daughter if she had gotten everything she wanted for Christmas. She paused a moment and responded, “No, but it wasn’t my birthday.” Her understanding of Christmas may be more biblical than most of us.
God gave the gift of His "one and only Son" (John 3:16). That is what Christmas is all about! And as John 3:16 tells us, the eternal destiny of each individual is determined by his or her response to the Gift God gave at Christmas.
Today, I want us to think about responding to Christmas, that is, to what Christmas is all about - the fact that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life" - John 3:16 (NIV).
In the responses of Herod and the Magi, we see the two ways in which people can respond to the message of Christmas today.
1. Some, Like Herod, Reject The Gift Of God’s Son
As we think of how Herod refused to accept the fact that the Messiah had arrived, we note . . .
A. His Problem - v. 3
Herod’s problem was that he had bought into "the lie." That is, the lie that is at the root of all unbelief and rebellion against God in this world, the notion that we know better what is best for us than God does, the idea that we can and should be our own “god.”
Satan first introduced this lie in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve.
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” - Genesis 3:5 (NIV)
Jesus declared that it is by this same lie that Satan works to deceive mankind.
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of IT.” - John 8:44 (NKJV)
To what is Jesus referring when He speaks of “IT?” Some believe he is referring to the practice of lying, which, no doubt is true. But I would suggest that Jesus is specifically referring to the lie that is at the root of all unbelief and rebellion against God, the lie that Satan told Adam and Eve in the Garden and the lie by which He will one day, through the work of the Anti-Christ, lead all of unbelieving mankind in rebellion against God.
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe THE LIE and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” - 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (NIV)
We live in a day in which this notion that I can be my own God has reached new overt status in the “New Age” movement.
I heard a testimony of one Christian worker who engaged himself in conversation with a New Ager and asked him a question made popular by the Evangelism Explosion training program. He asked, “When you die, what will you say to God when He asks you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” The New Ager responded, “I am God, and I would never ask myself that question.”
Herod didn’t want to deal with that question either! Why? For the same reason people today do not want to deal with that question! Herod didn’t want to give up his throne! He had bought into the lie that he could be his own "God," and he had no intention of giving up the throne of his life to anyone else!
B. His Pretense - vs. 7-8
Herod made the pretense that he wanted to worship Christ. But that was not the case at all. Instead, Herod was trying to work this situation to his advantage.