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While virtually everybody celebrates Christmas in our day, if only with a little turkey and dressing, the first Christmas was a low-key affair. While everyone was looking with great anticipation for the coming of the Messiah, somehow most of the invitations to that first Christmas party got lost in the mail. Still, Mary knew about it. Simeon and Anna got in on the celebration. The shepherds in the fields were called in to join the celebration. And eventually, the out-of-towners showed up, the wise men from the east.

There was, however, at least one person who was in the know but who passed on the celebration. What he received from The wise men could not in any way be construed as “good news.” Imagine being in Herod’s shoes. You are the potentate; only the highest of the Roman hierarchy stand above you. One day your servant announces that distinguished visitors have come to your city. Things are looking up. But then you hear of the errand that drew the magi near. The rumors float back to your palace: “They are searching for a king, your majesty, but they are not searching for you. They want to know where is He who was born King of the Jews.” What happened next often gets short shrift when we recount the birth of Jesus, because it doesn’t make for a pretty pageant. Herod slew every male child, 2 years old and younger, in and around Bethlehem, while Jesus was safe in Egypt.

The birth of the Christ is cause for celebration for we who are His. But like that Day of the Lord, the Day of the Lord for which we still wait will not be all sweetness and light. For those outside of His kingdom, it will be a day of darkness. However, such should not mute our celebrations, but inspire them. This One who was born will bring all things into submission. Such should likewise inspire our zeal. As we celebrate our Lord’s birth, and as we watch the world around us in its petty imitation, let us all the more invite unbelievers to the true feast. We not only live coram Deo, before the face of God, but we feast there. And we are called to call those still in the dark to join us in the light of His countenance.

Let us, in this season of celebration, spread the invitations far and wide, knowing that those invitations, like He who inspired them, will be for some the aroma of life and for others the stench of death.

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