Pastor Nick Smith
A familiar decoration at Christmas is the Nativity Scene. Some people adorn their homes with small statues or their yards with large illumined figures of the Nativity. We know the characters all too well. There is Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, angels, and, of course, the baby Jesus. All of these individuals are found in the Bible’s account of the Christmas story. There is another person that the Scriptures mention. This man will never be present in any decoration or Nativity scene, nor should he be. He is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew in the context of the birth of Christ but he was certainly not present at Jesus’ birth. The man’s name was Herod. He was appointed to be king of Israel by the Roman Empire. History knows him as Herod the Great but there was nothing great about him. He certainly built great buildings and accomplished great things but he was an evil man. Herod did vile and despicable things, even to his own family. The Roman emperor once remarked, “Better to be one of Herod’s pigs than one of Herod’s sons.” Herod’s life was marked by corruption and hedonism. His death was tragic as he spent his last days insane and paranoid, even believing that the ghost of his wife, the wife whom he had killed, was haunting him. What is so tragic about Herod is not the evil that he did. No, that’s expected. We all know thousands of stories of corrupt leaders doing very bad things. What is so tragic about Herod is that he was so close to meeting Jesus and yet he failed to do so. Herod missed Christmas. Far worse, Herod missed the Christ of Christmas. The Gospel of Matthew 2:1 says, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” Wise men traveled from the east, following a star, to worship this new king that was born in Bethlehem. They first traveled to Jerusalem and discussed this with Herod. Matthew tells us that Herod sought the advice of his counselors and the religious leaders of the day. They informed him of Old Testament prophecy that foretold the Messiah being born in Bethlehem. Herod could have traveled with the wise men and worshiped Jesus along with them. Instead, Herod lied to those eastern travelers and concocted a horrible plan of killing young boys in an attempt to kill Jesus and to eradicate any threat to his own throne.
Herod is a lot like many people today. True, most have never done anything evil on the scale of Herod, but how many miss Christmas? Have you ever missed Christmas? Imagine waking up on Dec. 26 and you suddenly realize that you slept through Christmas. There was no Christmas tree, no opening of gifts, and no spending time with the family. No person would enjoy missing Christmas. But like Herod, how many miss the Christ of Christmas? One must know that Christmas is really not about a tree or gifts. It is a time when we celebrate the birth of a King. It is a time when we celebrate that God would become a man. The greatest tragedy of Herod is he was so close. He resided in Jerusalem and Jesus was born in Bethlehem. That’s a distance of 5.7 miles. Herod missed Jesus by 5.7 miles. He should have traveled the 5.7 miles along with the wise men. He should have bowed, laid his crown at the feet of baby Jesus, and worshiped. Herod should have acknowledged and believed that he was a sinner in need of a savior. He should have trusted that the baby who was laid in a manger would one day be placed on a cross for sinners. Instead, Herod missed Christ. If you miss the Christ of Christmas, like Herod, you will have achieved much only to lose it all. You would have gained the world only to lose your own soul. You would have won earth only to lose heaven; won earth only to receive hell. You would have wasted everything. Don’t be like Herod. Learn from the wise men. They traveled from the east and gave Jesus what He deserved, precious gifts and adoration. The old poem says it best, “Only one life, twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Do not miss Christmas. Do not miss Christ.
Nick Smith is the pastor of Lake Junaluska First Baptist Church in Clyde.