The contrast is stark (Matthew 2:1-11). On the one hand you have King Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” who were apparently troubled (ESV), disturbed (NIV), deeply perturbed (JBP), or terrified (MSG) by the birth of Jesus, depending on which translation you use. The Greek word (tarassō) means to agitate, which gives the impression that, at the very least, they were threatened and disrupted somehow. I wonder why? Why would the birth of a baby bring about such a negative and insecure reaction? Unless of course that baby was not just any ordinary baby. Unless that baby, in fact, was the King of kings and Lord of lords. If that’s who that baby was, then it might well have been something to turn their lives upside down.
On the other hand, you have the Magi, foreigners who had traveled a great distance, seeking the One the star was meant to lead them to. The star was only a sign. Thus, when they saw the star, let alone the child, they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Their journey was almost over. They had reached their destination. They were finally about to find the One their hearts had been looking for and longing for and hoping for. Thus, one word was not enough to capture the emotion of seeing that star in the night sky, so Matthew used four different words: they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
But surely others had seen the star as well, right? Did they just not know what the star meant? Or did they just not care? Were they so busy spinning around in their own little lives that they didn’t take the trouble to venture a measly five-and-a-half miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see from themselves?
But the Magi did. In fact, they had traveled hundreds of miles, seeking whatever, or whoever, the star was leading them to. Thus, the joy they were filled with when they finally arrived at their destination. Then, upon seeing the child, another reaction took place—worship. Worship happens when you stand in the presence of someone, or something, much bigger than yourself. It is a feeling of awestruck wonder that fills your heart with awe and brings you to your knees. And the “someone” they found when they arrived was the One who held the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand, spoke the mountains into place, and called the stars by name. So they fell down on their knees and worshiped the Newborn King. They opened their treasures to him and offered him gifts of gratitude and affection and honor and praise.
There are many ways we can react to the birth of Christ, and Christmastide gives us the time and the space to do just that. Not to pretend or fabricate or manufacture a response, but to reflect and to recognize and to discover what is honestly there—no guilt, no shame, no ought or should. It’s just where you are. And where you are is exactly where God wants to meet you, it’s what the incarnation is about in the first place. If you are full of joy and gratitude, thanks be to God. But if you are agitated or disrupted or troubled or disturbed, don’t deny it or try to hide it, just ask him why. If you lack joy, don’t beat yourself up over it, tell him about it. It’s not like he doesn’t already know that anyway. Ask him for the strength and the grace and the courage to choose joy. Ask him to give you his joy. Ask him to fill your heart with life and love and hope and peace and joy. He is the source of all of those—just ask the Magi.