The Greatest Christmas Message

Bob Ross called them happy little accidents.  They were the times his brush slipped and he made a mistake while painting on his iconic show.  For those watching, we thought he had really messed up this time. This landscape was ruined. Bob Ross looked at it differently. Rather than view his errors as mistakes that marred the canvas, he chose to embrace the deviation from plan.  He took his error and turned it into something wonderful. The paint smudge that ruined most people’s day was transformed into a happy little tree or a bubbling brook with minimal effort.  All it took was the proper attitude, a little hope and the tools of the creator to change what seemed like an accident into something wonderful.

God is way better artist than Bob Ross.  He probably has better hair too.  God also never make mistakes.  From our perspective, it sure can seem like He does sometimes but He doesn’t.  We just don’t see where He is going with His handiwork. Things we see as ruining the work of God are actually used to demonstrate His skill as a creator. We get things so wrong at times.  God says He uses all things for the good of those who love Him.  We know this is true…intellectually.  When we are living it and up to our ears in guilt, pain and shame, it is much harder to see.  Yet, it is one of these happy little accidents that sends what may be the greatest message from the Christmas story.

Gods Happy Little Accidents Pastor Unlikely

The Wise Men Go Astray

Have we ever wondered about the Wise Men meeting Herod?  The account is covered in the Gospel of Matthew.  The Wise Men travel many miles following what we call the Star of Bethlehem.  They may have been ancient astronomers.  Others theorize they were part of the group of Wise Men, Magi, trained by Daniel while he was in exile in Babylon.  Regardless, they spend much time, effort and money following the Star of Bethlehem and get really close to their destination.  Yet, rather than push through to Bethlehem their first stop naturally is…Jerusalem?  Didn’t they read the name of the star of Bethlehem?  What in the world were they doing in Jerusalem? 

From the text, it is unclear why they stopped in Israel’s capital city.  If we put ourselves in their shoes, though, it is not hard to understand.  The Wise Men are traditionally called the Three Kings.  This is despite the fact that there is no evidence they were kings or there were three of them.  Kind of messes with “We Three Kings” but it is the truth.  The expensive gifts given to Jesus as well as their reception by Herod does indicate that they were prominent men.  They may have been kings or nobility, we just know they were men looking for the King of the Jews.  The question arises then, “Where would prominent men go to find the King of the Jews?”  That answer is easy.  The King of the Jews should be in a palace of some sort in the capital city of Israel, right?.  He should be born in finery with royal attendants.  Servants should herald the birth from the walls of the palace to call all the fancy people to come and admire Him.  Think of the scene recently when Prince William of England’s first child was born.  Pomp, circumstance, and finery abounded.  This is what the Wise Men were expecting when they arrived in the City of David.      

Their time in Jerusalem was very different than this expectation.  It seems like a mistake on their part but it is not.  It is one of God’s happy little accidents.

Behold The Fake King of the Jews 

The Wise Men’s detour takes them to Herod’s palace. They arrive and inquire where they may find the King of the Jews?  This seems like a huge mistake.  They pose the question to Herod, a bloodthirsty tyrant. He declared himself King of the Jews, the one and only Monarch of Israel, and did not appreciate rivals. He killed his own sons to protect his position. What good could come from God allowing them to face Herod?  This seems like a terrible error since it results in Herod ordering the death of the children of Bethlehem. This is not the only the result, though. Even when an’s sinful nature causes something terrible to occur, God’s plan is not thwarted.

Matthew records the response to the Wise Men’s question:

 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:

6 “‘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.”

The visit of the Wise Men causes an uproar in Jerusalem for a reason. The Wise Men send a message from God to Israel.  They come following a supernatural sign announcing the Messiah is born.  All of the City of David at the heart of God’s people hear the news clearly from the palace itself. The entire city is on notice of Jesus’ coming.  Yes, they respond terribly but don’t skip forward too quickly.  God arranges the Wise Men’s visist so not only the King’s palace but Israel’s royal city are notified the Savior has come.  Isn’t the mercy of God wonderful!

We know what happens next.  Herod attacks the Messiah or tries to. The priests, Levites, and scribes do nothing.  But free will guarantees it did not have to go down like this.  On hearing the real King of Jews arrived, Herod could have truly gone and worshipped Him.  The palace attendants could have blown trumpets and welcomed their King.  All of Jerusalem could have come and adored baby Jesus like the Wise Men, shepherds and a handful of others.  The fact they reject the opportunity does not make it any less wonderful.  God in the flesh is a short trip from them and they choose the cares of this life over the Life. They cannot claim that God did not notify them. He sent strange figures from a faraway land following a mysterious star to them. How much more obviously heaven sent can we get?

Come to Me ALL of You

After a warning, the Wise Men leave Herod’s palace.  They depart from the splendor and power of the Court of the King and head to Bethlehem.  To the home of a poor unknown family from an insignificant town.  There is no jewels, wealth and crowns here.  There are no nobles, scribes or priests.  This is Joe Lunchpail territory in modern terms.  They leave opulence and go to a Jewish every man’s house to meet the real King. 

The True Savior came for everyone in a place everyone can come to.

Gods Happy Little Accidents Pastor Unlikely

When was the last time we were invited to the White House?  How easy is it to have tea with the Queen of England?  Are we doing lunch with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia?  For most of us, these questions are ludicrous.  We will never travel in such lofty circles.  Only a select few are welcomed into those places.  It was the same in Jesus’ time.  Very few regular Joe’s, or more properly regular Marcus’ or Eli’s, were invited to see Herod or the Roman Emperor.  Earthly kings and rules never act like that.   Most of us will never be welcomed at the seat of power. We would never consider trying to enter those realms. They are off limits.

Jesus is no regular earthly king, though.

The Wise Men make the same mistake we would make in their sandals.  They look for an earthly King in a palace.  God uses this to send the most wonderful message. 

No matter who you are, come to Jesus!

Jesus is the King.  He is God whose throne is in heaven.  Yet, this King is here for everyone.  The fake King of the Jews can have the palace.  Jesus wants the people, every last one of us.

If you are a poor Jew like His parents, come to Him.  If you are pagan astrologers from a far off land, come to Jesus. If you are the shepherds who hear the birth announcement from the angels, come to Him. Each of these groups would not be welcome in most of Israel’s high society. Herod may have received the Wise Men, but Joseph, Mary and the Shepherds are getting nowhere near his palace. The High Priest had nothing to do with pagans. The non-Jews and the lower classes are the riff-raff according to the fancy Jewish folks. They had no access to God. They did not deserve to come into the Temple or the palace.

When we follow the journey of the Wise Men from Herod’s palace in the capital of Israel to a poor man’s house in Bethlehem, it is not fixing a mistake. God is sending a wonderful message.

Jesus came for all humanity. He calls the poor, the outcast, the notorius sinner, the priest and the fool. Very few can make it into the palace. The stable of a poor family is open to everyone.

Isn’t God wonderful? Even what we think is wrong turn is actually God’s glorious work we don’t yet see! God’s happy little accidents are neither little nor accidents. They are God’s awesome plan of redemption at work.

Love to all,

Tom

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Gods Happy Little Accidents Pastor Unlikely



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