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The company "Modern Nativity" has created a 10-piece "Hipster Nativity" set that sells for $129.99. The idea evolved while a group of friends were drinking some beers, and now it's a marketable item for the Christmas season. Mary and Joseph are shown in a solar-powered stable with Joseph sporting a man bun while taking a selfie of the three of them with his iPhone. Mary is flashing a peace sign with one hand and holding her Starbucks in the other. The lone shepherd is engrossed with his tablet and earbuds while standing by a cow stamped with '100% Organic.' Three wise men are standing on Segways holding Amazon boxes while each is decked out in hipster attire. Co-founder Casey Wright told CNBC, "We have quickly found out that this product is very polarizing. It's usually, 'This is hilarious, I need one,' or, 'This is sacrilegious, I hope you burn in hell.'" He noted there's almost no response in between these two extremes.
Whether you find the Hipster Nativity funny or offensive, there is some truth to what it displays. Here is one of the most precious and important nights in history, yet everyone is paying more attention to themselves and what makes them happy than they are to the child, Jesus.
But I have to look at myself and wonder: how different am I? What is my approach to the Christ-Child? Am I self-absorbed with how I look or feel or with all the pressures of life? Do I lift my own comfort above what this child--what God come to earth as a humble human boy--really wants from me?
We all have this tendency to place ourselves above Jesus. We all want to be in charge of our own lives--that's the message we're all given is that we need to take charge and be our own master. They're our bodies, our minds--we'll do with them whatever makes us happy! When life is good: why would we want that to change? When life is bad: well, how dare it!
But is that the way we should respond to Jesus? What we're going to see today is that we can respond to him in one of three ways: We can ignore him, we can deny him, or we can seek him. Most of us live life alternating between these three, though some lean heavily in a particular direction. Since we're all at church this morning, we probably all think that we're seeking Jesus, but are we? How much have our lives changed, and how much are they being changed, because of him? Because of this King who was born in a manger 2000 years ago?
Today, I want to read what God inspired Matthew to write about Jesus and the people who were faced with his birth, so turn in your Bibles, or in the free Youversion Bible App to Matthew 2:1-12. If you don't have a Bible with you, feel free to follow along with me on the screen here at the front.
Matthew 2:1–12 NIV
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. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they 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. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
In Matthew's telling of what happened that day, we are given a picture of three groups of people: the Scribes, King Herod, and the Magi (or wise men, as you may call them). It can be so easy to distance ourselves from them, but I wonder if this is what God wants us to do? He had Matthew write down the details of this story for a reason, and I believe one of his reasons was that he wanted us to recognize ourselves in this story and to show us that there are three ways we can approach Jesus as King: we can ignore him, we can deny him, or we can seek him.
Here God makes it clear that seeking Jesus is the only right response to Jesus, but it isn't always easy. In fact, what we learn is that Seekers give everything, risk everything, and gain everything.
Before we jump into looking at what it is to seek Jesus like that Magi, I think we should look at these other two approaches so that you can recognize them in yourself, hopefully--if you're up for it--enabling you to stop yourself and get on the right track.
The first thing you need to watch out for is that when Jesus isn't who you want him to be, you may be tempted to ignore who he really is.
The Scribes were smart guys. They had studied the Law and the Prophets--what Christians call the OT--and knew it frontwards and backwards. When the Magi came and said the King had been born they were able to produce an answer as to where he had been born based on their knowledge of the Scriptures: Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But here's where it gets interesting: they knew where he was born, and they had just learned from the Magi when he had been born...but the Scribes made no effort to go to him and worship him.
See, this baby King wasn't who they wanted. The Scribes were expecting someone who would come and free them of Roman rule...but there was a problem with that: life was good for them under the Romans. They had privilege, so long as no one came and messed that up. So, instead of going to this King, they ignored him. They wrapped themselves up in what they wanted, what they preferred--and in doing so they missed the long-awaited Messiah's birth. They missed the King.
How often do you read the Bible, or hear a message, or feel led by God's Holy Spirit, but what you read or hear or feel isn't what you want to read or hear or feel? So what do you do? Surely, who Jesus is and what he wants you to do should line up with what you want...right? Surely, that thing you feel led to do can't be of God, because he'd never ask you to risk this or to give that up! So what do you do about it? You ignore him. You ignore what he wants you to do, you ignore who he wants you to be, you ignore who he really is and you make up a Jesus who looks just like you instead of allowing Jesus to make you look just like him!
But what kind of life is it to ignore the God you made you? What kind of life is it to accept the Jesus who saves but ignore the Jesus who rules?
Friends, what you need to realize is that God doesn't want you to be like those Scribes. He didn't make you to ignore him. He made you to be in a life-giving relationship with him and to live life seeking to be made more like Jesus. That's going to require sacrifice though--your expectations and desires may have to take a backseat to the reality of who Jesus is, because Seekers give everything, risk everything, and gain everything.
Yet there's another way that you may find you approach King Jesus.
When Jesus threatens your way of life, it is easy to deny him.
There was Herod, put in place by the Romans as a king over the Jewish people--despite the fact that he was not of the royal family of Israel. He had power and prestige--for him, all was well. But then, along came these strange men from the East asking where the King of the Jews had been born. Surely, Herod must have been panicking thinking, "Someone from the true royal line of David has been born...What will happen to me if this child grows up and tries to become king in my place?" There was no way that he was going to allow this to happen: Jesus was threatening Herod's very comfortable way of life, so Herod planned to deny Jesus of his actual life!
Some of the most violent speech against Jesus comes from those who feel threatened by him. Maybe there are things you read about Jesus, or about how a follower of Jesus should live in response to God's love, and they rub you the wrong way. Maybe there are things God says are wrong that you think are right. Maybe there are things God says you need to change that you have based your entire identity on. We all have these areas: those places where where say, "God can't really expect that!" or without any basis we say, "Well, that passage in the Bible doesn't apply to me." See, too many people respond to Jesus like Herod did: You get so caught up in trying to save your way of life that you deny yourself the opportunity to have Jesus save your soul.
Now, am I saying that those who believe in Jesus are all perfect and that if you wrestle with sin your soul is lost? Absolutely not! But what I am saying is that, if you have truly believed to the depth of your being that God loved the world he created so much that, even in the midst of our rebellion against him as we tried to set ourselves up as rulers in his place, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be born miraculously, yet humbly--to live as one of us, to die horrifically in our place, and three days later to rise again victorious over sin and death so that you and I would have a path to being restored into a right relationship with him. If you've really allowed that to impact you, then there should be a difference in the way that you act and think. Slowly, but surely, as you learn about what God wants and as the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart you will begin to desire the things God wants--you will not seek to deny him in those areas, even when they are painful to change or give up. You see, you are saved by grace through faith, but your faith is proved through the things that you do in response to God's grace. If your response to God's grace is to deny the things of Jesus, then you must ask yourself if you have really had faith in him at all!
Your denial of King Jesus--however big or small--does not make him any less real.
Instead of ignoring or denying Jesus like the Scribes and king Herod did, I believe that God is calling you to something greater. He's calling you to the seeking faith of the Magi and to understand that Seekers give everything, risk everything, and gain everything.
When you recognize the significance of Jesus Christ you will give everything to seek him.
The leaders of Israel chose to ignore and to deny their King; however, the magnificent thing is that the Magi--Gentiles, or non-Jews, who would have been looked down upon by the people of Israel--recognized Jesus' significance and travelled hundreds of miles to see him even for a moment: possibly taking months to cross the barren desert wilderness and braving treacherous roads filled with wild animals and violent groups of bandits.
These magi saw a sign in the sky and because of that they were willing to give up their time, their safety, their comfort, and even their expensive possessions so that they could seek Jesus. And when they finally found him, they rejoiced, they worshipped and adored him...and then it was time for them to go back to their country.
If the Magi were willing to give so much to seek Jesus--just to see him for a moment and to give him great gifts--how much more should we be willing to give in order to continually seek our King, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who brings us into a relationship with the Father and saves us from our sin--our rebellion against God!
By seeking Jesus, you may find that you have to deal with serving a King who makes you uncomfortable and calls you into things that stretch you. You may find that you have to sacrifice many of the things that you hold near and dear to you. You may feel like your very self has died. Yet that is exactly what you are called to do: you give everything, risk everything, and then you gain everything. The Apostle Paul wrote:
Galatians 2:20 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Seekers give everything, risk everything, and gain everything.
Will those of us here today be people who ignore the true King, who deny Jesus, or who are willing to sacrifice to seek him? Seekers give everything, risk everything, and gain everything.
Just as the people in the Hipster Nativity, it can be tempting to let ourselves--our image of what we want Jesus to be and our ideal way of life--to get in the way of us seeking after and appreciating the real Jesus. Seekers give, risk, and gain everything.
There's a story about a young family that was preparing to travel home for Christmas. They took the trashcan to the curb, put the mail on hold, sent the dog to a kennel, and loaded their SUV with their luggage, wrapped gifts, and all of the necessary paraphernalia for their newborn baby. In near exhaustion from the frantic rush to get everything done before leaving, they turned on the security system and climbed into the car. About halfway down their street, the young mother threw her arms up and screamed, "WE FORGOT THE BABY!"
Let us never be people who come to Christmas forgetting the baby who is the reason for it all. Let us never be people who go through life forgetting that Jesus is the reason for our hope and the reason we can have purpose and meaning in life. Let's not be people who ignore or deny Christ. Instead, let us be seekers. Seekers give everything, risk everything...and gain EVERYTHING!
If you're ready to begin seeking Jesus with me, here's what I want you to do this week:
1) Identify which of these three approaches you most apply to Christ's Kingship in your life.
2) Ask yourself why you approach him the way you do.
3) Consider: what needs to happen for you to begin drawing nearer to the Son of God, King Jesus?
We want to hear from you...yes, you! Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments!