When the Magi saw a new star, they were given revelation and understanding that it heralded the birth of a new King of the Jews. They immediately packed some special gifts and went to find the baby, so they could worship Him.
When King Herod was told this news, he patronised the Magi and asked them to let him know when they had found the baby, so he could go and worship the new King also – but this was total deception and his only true motive was not to worship Jesus, but to kill Him!
These were two extreme reactions – that of the Magi to worship the new-born King and that of King Herod to kill him, and so eliminate the threat of a contender to Herod’s throne. Of course, the ultimate power behind Herod’s motive was Satan, for whom Jesus’s sinless authority was the ultimate threat. From day one of Jesus’s life, people took one stance or the other – worship Him or kill Him! Their reaction was either of God or the Devil. And this eternal drama, played out on the stage of Israel’s soil, ultimately took Jesus to Jerusalem, the cross and His sacrifice for the sins of the world.
And today, nothing’s changed! We see this eternal drama lived out in a society where Jesus is loved and worshipped by a diminishing band of those who truly know, love and believe in Him. And hated (hatred is the prime motivation for murder) by those whose self-seeking, Satan-inspired desires want to eliminate the influence of Jesus, His teaching and the Gospel from every sector of society, education and government.
In Charles Dickens’ extraordinary Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, the elderly miser Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, in an attempt to change the direction of Scrooge’s life, before it would be too late for him also. Marley’s ghost arrives, clanking and chained, saying “I wear the chains I forged in life . . . I made it link by link . . . I girded it on of my own free will . . . no rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.” Then Marley is heard to say “Why did I walk through the crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?” The message to Scrooge of Marley’s ghost is that the decisions we make on Earth, become either a curse or a blessing for us in eternity.
The words of Marley’s ghost are an “If only” cry from eternity into time. A cry that, if they could but speak, would be echoed by countless souls of those who chose hatred (murder), or just plain indifference, instead of love (adoration and worship) for the Babe of Bethlehem – the One who grew to become the Man, Christ Jesus, the Saviour and Redeemer of all those who come to Him. If only they had chosen to ‘follow the Star’ and find Jesus, then eternity, for them, would have been so very different.
I pray that in these hotly contested days, when the Christian message is not only being side-lined, but consistently ignored and rubbished, that this Christmas there will be those who choose not to walk in the footsteps of King Herod but follow in humility the path of the Magi, and bow in worship of the One who will return as King of Kings. Otherwise, the chains they are forging will become the eternal curse that Dickens portrayed through the chains of Marley’s ghost.
In thirty-five years of ministering, in and through the work of Ellel Ministries, I have heard the “If only” cry from the lips of countless real people, those who were regretting the ungodly choices they had made in the past. Mercifully, most of them, had also come to a point of repentance, receiving both forgiveness and healing, as they looked to the One whose Star was now shining brightly in their hearts.
The Christmas message challenges the very core of our hearts, as we seek forgivenesss for the “if only” wrong choices of the past and sing with joy and thanksgiving the words of Charles Wesley’s greatest hymn “And can it be?” in which we read these wonderful words:
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Ultimately, there is only one question in life that really matters. “What do you think of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42). Do you love Him or hate Him? The nature of your future life, both on Earth and in eternity, will be determined by your answer to this question.
May I take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very blessed Christmas season and celebration, as you thank God for His most precious and wonderful Gift.