Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead.”
It’s palpable. You know that feeling. It begins to form in the early days of November (even though Hobby Lobby might like us to think it begins in July!) That sense that Christmas is on the way. We begin to deck the halls and string the lights and the excitement starts to stir. Radio stations transition to Christmas tunes and Hallmark ramps up its holiday line up. Nostalgic memories waft into our minds like the smell of fresh-baked cookies from a kitchen.
I can remember as a little girl having an advent calendar that signaled the countdown to the “big day”. We would bake cookies and shop, go to see Santa and watch ALL the Christmas shows – Frosty, Rudolph, the Little Drummer Boy. Every year we would go to candlelight service at church and then it was home to bed where I would drift off to sleep with dreams of what was waiting for me under the tree. To make the season even more festive, Christmas Day happened to be my Dad’s birthday. So, the celebration always seemed to be a little sweeter. Until one day….it wasn’t.
I remember fondly the year the whole family had gathered together again from the various states we had all migrated to as we pursued our individual lives. There isn’t much I enjoy more than spending time with my family, especially on holidays. My Dad had stopped his chemo for the month of December so he could truly enjoy the holiday with the family without feeling tired and ill. We cherished every moment of that Christmas – it wasn’t often all of us were together anymore. We shared meals and laughter, traditions and stories, not knowing in less than a month Dad would be gone.
Christmas changed forever for me that year. Before I used to anticipate the season with the excitement of a child, even as I moved into adulthood. Now, as the decorations start to appear in the stores (earlier & earlier every year) my heart starts to feel a little heavy and my spirit settles into a sadness that can easily eclipse the joy of the season – the REASON for the season – if I let it. Merry isn’t always how my Christmas feels; joy is not forever filling my world, and my yuletide season is often less than jolly. Somedays just existing seems all I can accomplish. It’s a not so subtle reminder that we have an enemy who is “roaming throughout the earth, going back & forth in it” (Job 1:7, Job 2:2) and “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He would like nothing more than to steal your peace, kill your joy and destroy your hope (John 10:10), especially at Christmas when we celebrate the arrival of our Savior to the earth.
In the verses above we see that even when Jesus was born the devil was up to his usual tricks, working through Herod who seemed to be an all-to-willing participant. But let the words of Romans 8:28 ring loudly in your ears and give you the assurance that God can bring good out of the bad, beauty from the ashes, hope to the hopeless. Let there be no mistake, Satan hates Christmas and he wants nothing more than to destroy all it means. Jesus came to earth to dwell among us and set us free from our bondage to sin and this makes Satan furious. We shouldn’t be surprised that he steps up his assault on us when all the earth is celebrating the Savior’s birth. Because if there’s ever a season that others have the opportunity to hear about the hope of Jesus, it’s now. We can be sure, the devil’s working overtime. He never takes a Christmas vacation so, as God warns us, we should be vigilant. If you’re a believer, living as salt and light in this world, be aware – Satan is hot on your trail.
The truth is that God tells us “here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” but thankfully He doesn’t end this verse there. He goes on to encourage us to “take heart because He has overcome the world” (John 16:33). Back it up to the beginning of that verse and we find out why He is telling us all this… “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me”. Peace & joy aren’t found in our circumstances, in the presents under the tree or even the people in our lives. They are found in a relationship with Jesus. When we invite the living Savior into our hearts we are assured that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We don’t have to be afraid of Satan and we certainly don’t have to let him gain ground in any area of our life. God is greater than any of his deceptive traps. We can live aware of his treacherous schemes as we walk in the Truth.
So if at Christmas you feel more Grinch-like than Buddy the Elf, know that you aren’t alone. Not alone in how you feel nor alone in how you have to face the season. No matter how you would finish out our title, let me encourage you to “keep your eyes fixed on Jesus” and flee to God for refuge because “we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” (Hebrews 6:18-19).
Most High God,
As we navigate this season where we celebrate your birth let us be mindful that many are struggling physically, financially, emotionally & spiritually. While we claim the victory you have won, let us not forget we have an enemy who desires to separate us from you relationally so we become ineffective for Your Kingdom. Let us approach your throne of grace with expectant and hopeful hearts that look to You for completion, fulfillment, and joy. Give us hearts tender to your children who are hurting and let us lift them up through the truth of Your Word and the power of our prayers. Thank you for taking on human form, descending to earth, enduring opposition and fulfilling your rescue mission. We are eternally grateful! In the mighty and holy name of Jesus, we pray,
Today’s post was written by Cyndi Staudt
Cyndi traveled a long & broken road that led to the heart of her Savior and is grateful God can use her tattered past in His story. God has placed in Cyndi a heart for sharing the love of Jesus both locally and globally and she has traveled to the Philippine’s (3 times), India (2 times), Thailand & Myanmar to let people in some of the most remote regions of the world know that God is Crazy about them. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing, performing & teaching aerial silks, hammock & hoop, traveling, writing devotionals, and date nights with her main (feline) man Harley. Most weekends you will find Cyndi enjoying Saturday night service at the Clermont Campus.