In the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, he narrates how God appeared again to Joseph in a dream telling him to go to Egypt because Herod will have all babies 2 years old and under killed.

This would not have happened if the scene prior to this did not take place. And what was that?

Well, one day, here’s King Herod sipping wine at his throne, looking at the vast properties he has accumulated and the number of slaves at his disposal. In between sips, he sneers at his own atrocities – killing members of his court and family to secure his absolute power, executing the wealthy for treason to amass their lands, and hypocritical piety.

Then he was disrupted by a couple of wise men – Magi from the east as Matt put it. Where is the one born king of the Jews, they asked.

If you come in a palace and asked such question, it is definitely going to alarm the person at the throne, right?

Trying to hide his aversion to the question, Herod replied to the wise men, “Well, call me if you found him so I can also worship him, okay?”

But God warned the magis not to return to Herod. Realizing he was tricked, the brutal king slaughtered toddlers in Jerusalem.

While all this was happening, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus were already traveling to Egypt. They have probably settled with an expatriate Jewish community in Alexandria who had political differences with Herod. Yes, Jesus was once a refugee!

Timothy Keller tells there are two reasons why the Gospel writers chose to tell certain events from the many scenes they have witnessed – first, because they actually happened, and second, they are revealing.

This account of early Jesus’ life reveals two things, two uncomfortable things that are true in this life. Proceed at your own risk.

Conceited Hearts

Where does evil come from? Some people say the rich and powerful are to blame. While others claim that the immoral and irresponsible people are the main problem. Well, this is easy to believe considering Herod is both rich and immoral. But the Bible tells us that the source of the world’s evil is every human heart.

St. Paul argues in Romans 8:7-8 that in its natural state, the human mind is echthra, meaning enmity or hatefulness toward God. At the core of our being we are somehow saying or implying, ‘no one tells me what to do.’

Hindi ba totoo? We sometimes create a version of God that is according to our own liking. We make God relative.

Humans are self-centered (what can I get from this), self-righteous (I recently came upon a thread of criticisms after Malacanan posted a message on the Immaculate Conception Feast. I’d wanted to say, way to go Catholics and quote John 8:7, but wait, I almost fell on the same trap of criticizing the post) and self-absorbed (how would this make me look, what would others think of me).

In our hearts, there is a little King Herod that wants to rule and is threatened by anything that may compromise its omnipotence and sovereignty.

But only one person can sit on an absolute thrown. When Jesus came unto us and told us he was God, the King, he said ‘If anyone wants to come to be and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes even their own life – such person cannot be my disciple.’

Jesus was not saying that we become hateful toward our families. He is calling for an allegiance to him so supreme that it makes all other commitments look weak by comparison. It is a claim of absolute authority, a summons to unconditional loyalty, that most of the time triggers deep resistance within the human heart.

Keller says there is no therapy or amount of education that can remove this. But he shares we can do something. We can be intentional about Christian growth, prayer and about accountability to other people to overcome bad habits.  

We can ask God to help us make our love for him supreme – above all our other loves.

The Misfits

Jesus was not only born in a manger but he grew up in Nazareth. We get a hint when Nathaniel learns that Jesus is a Nazarene, “Nazareth? Can anything come good from there?” (John 1:46)

Apart from being the farthest from the seat of power in Judea, Nazareth and Galilee are looked down upon. Yet as Matt narrates, this is where God intended the Messiah to grow up.

Why? To teach us that God does not operate as the world does. The world despises the wrong people, or people from the wrong places and with the wrong credentials. God is different. He initially brings his message not to the Romans, the Babylonians or the Assyrians but to the Jews, a small nation and a little race. In defeating the giant Goliath, he sent a small shepherd boy.

In the ancient times when the oldest son always got the wealth and the second son was left for nothing, what did God do? He worked through Abel not Cain, through Isaac not Ishmael, through Jacob not Esau.

When women were valued for their beauty and fertility, God chose old Sarah, not young Hagar; the unattractive Leah not Rachel; Rebekah, Hannah, Samson’s mother and Elizabeth who all can’t have children.

This is God saying, I will choose the girl nobody wants, the boy that everybody has forgotten.

When Jesus came claiming to be the King, people and even his disciples thought he would rise to power and conquer the Romans. But that was not the plan. The plan was for him to lose all his power to die and save the world. In being weak, He gain the strength to save all.

The message of Christmas comes clearer then, God does not care who you are, where you are from, what you did, what your deepest dark secrets are, how badly you have messed up. If you repent and come to Him, He will not only accept you but will work through you.

And as Christmas implies that wealth, status and race are immaterial, we must not be snobs or snobs about snobs.

Merry Christmas!

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