Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shepherds & Wise Men

3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Almost all of us know these verses...maybe even the passage it's from -Isaiah 53. But the other day I read this chapter a different way.

Verse 7 hit me: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

Imagine. Imagine that you were one of the shepherd boys who heard the angels and went to the cave behind the inn to see a baby - the baby. Imagine that you, just a teenager in ragged clothes smelling like sheep, are bowing before this manger, perhaps not even realizing why you're compelled to kneel in His presence. And now, fast forward 33 years. Imagine you're watching this man Jesus hang on the cross. You hear the jeers and taunts from the Pharisees. You see people crying and others disgusted. And you don't hear Jesus say anything in response. Perhaps you'd forgotten about that baby, and gone on about your life still longing for a Messiah. Or maybe you knew he was the Messiah, and you'd gone to listen to him preach every chance you could. Either way, as you see Him hanging there, you realize you're seeing prophecy being fulfilled before your eyes! You remember hearing this passage preached in the Temple; you know how silently the sheep go to their shearer. And now, you see the Lamb of God also being led; He's silent except to beg for their forgiveness. And once again you're compelled to kneel. 

Then I thought of the Wise Men. These men who were revered and favored for their ability to "foretell" events and predict things. They saw the star, and knew it was something special. They followed it - leaving behind their conveniences. They went to go seek out a toddler - imagine! You leave behind the comforts of home to travel for months upon months just to see a toddler. You know this is not just an ordinary child - He is a boy of Greatness. And so you bring gifts for the boy...gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Not a wood toy or rattle, not a bowl or a new robe. You gave him gifts fit for an adult; incense that is used in one's burial. And you kneel. You, a man of stature in your country, bow before a toddler. You realize you are in the presence of royalty. Again fast forward. Now you're an old man. You hear of Jesus' death and you suddenly realize. You reminisce to that time of travel; to seeing Jesus and his parents. And you recall the gifts you gave. Now you realize the importance of those gifts. 

This year, as we celebrate Christmas, remember that we don't know what the future holds. Scripture we read now may not sink in until a later date. The gifts we lay before God, the donations to charity or the benevolence you show this holiday season, may not show their full impact in your lifetime. But remember it matters. Your acknowledgment and worship of the King of Kings, the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world matters! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!