An old missionary, who had served primitive, island people groups his entire career, recounted a story of a Christmas gift he received from one of the natives. It was a beautiful shell. He commented on the beauty of the shell and inquired about where the native had found it. The native told him that he had traveled by foot to the far side of the island to find the shell. His journey had taken him across mountains and through dense forest. The missionary expressed his gratitude but he also expressed an apology for the man having to go such a long distance. In response to the apology the man explained that the journey was part of the gift.
On the first Christmas long ago, God gave the world its most valuable gift. He gave the gift of Himself. He stepped out of eternity into time. He stepped out of the realms of glory into a fallen world. He did not come with great pomp and ceremony. He came as a child. He came to a tiny stable, not a glorious palace. His journey was a part of His great gift of love.
The world’s reception of this marvelous gift is much the same today as it was two thousand years ago. We see today the same three responses to this gift received in the second chapter of The Gospel of Matthew. Like Herod, many grow anger and feel threatened by the Christ Child. They fear that He will threaten their way of life. They refuse to even entertain the idea that they too are recipients of this gift. Like the scribes and priests, who were caught up in their own activities and did not investigate these claims, many have heard of the gift but are so busy with life that they do not take the time to stop and reflect upon its significance for their lives. Like the Wiseman, many understand that there is something special about this child and they greet His coming with adoration.
Things have changed little. There is still one birth and three reactions, anger, apathy or adoration. As it was then, it is now; each individual must choose his/her response. The later response certainly brings a greater sense of awe and wonder during the Christmas Season.