Control or Worship?

Advent Devotional Week 2

Okay, so I know Christmas is all about Jesus coming down and giving to flesh the name Immanuel—God with Us—and that is THE most radical, compassionate story out there.

But I want to talk about some other characters woven into the Christmas story. Do you ever step into the shoes of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, King Herod, or the wise men? And how about Elizabeth and Zechariah? Don’t know who some of those folks are? No worries. You can find all of them in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. But I think when we take the time to imagine what they were thinking and feeling, it gives us a greater understanding of the radical nature of the Christmas story—something many of us have become sort of immune to after hearing it so many times since we were little.

Matthew 2:1-3, 9-11, 16

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

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

…[The Magi] went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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, frankincense and myrrh.

…[Herod] 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.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why might King Herod be disturbed by hearing about the birth of “the King of the Jews”? Why does he want to kill the baby King?
  2. Why might the Magi be overjoyed to find baby Jesus? Why do they worship Him?
  3. Have you ever considered the significance of the Almighty King of the Universe choosing to dwell among His people? What does that reveal about God’s character?
  4. When was the last time you sought out a personal encounter with Jesus? When this week can you incorporate time to worship Him on your own?

​Closing Reflection

It probably goes without saying that King Herod was a terrible person, but I also have a lot of empathy for him. Yes, he did kill every single baby boy under the age of two, but he did it because he was terrified. You see, King Herod derives all of his worth from his control and power as king. If there is a king that was born who will dethrone him, Herod will lose everything. He doesn’t have God. He only has himself. Can you imagine the fear and pressure that is constantly surrounding every decision you make if your worth is only found in something that can be taken from you? This is the pressure Herod’s under. Now I’m not condoning his response at all. Yet, I can see parallels to his motivations in many of us today. It’s easy to feel threatened by God’s authority. It’s easy to feel afraid of devoting to Him the entirety of our lives when the world tells us our lives are where we derive our worth.

The Magi or Wise Men fascinate me because they come from a different country, yet have faith when they see the star signifying the King of the Jews has been born. They travel from “the East” to worship this Jewish King. They had a real understanding of reverence for authority. They don’t feel threatened by God’s power or Kingship. Rather, they recognize that this is a King worth bowing down to. They bring expensive gifts. They travel from a far country. They bow before this King.

 We all have the choice of how we respond. In our lives, we either respond like Herod, doing whatever possible to maintain control in our lives, or we respond like the Magi, submitting and giving praise where it is due.

If you can identify with Herod, let me assure you, God’s power and authority are not a threat to you. They are a gift. Your worth is not found in you. Your value is not dependent on your performance, helpfulness, or reputation. It is innate in your creation as an image-bearer of God. Nothing can alter your worth because it is dependent on God’s creative workmanship. As Jesus comes to earth, being “God with Us,” we see what it means to be an image bearer of God. It is to reflect His character, bringing His Kingdom to earth. Let us follow in the footsteps of the Magi and worship Immanuel, the King who came to dwell among His people.

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About the Author
Campus Staff Minister

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

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