Michael Youssef - Christmas in the Middle East
Hello, my friends. In a year dominated by crisis, chaos, and confusion, we have arrived at Christmas week. Thank God. Christians all over the world as well as non-Christians are celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only hope for mankind. One place where the celebration of Jesus's birth is a very specially meaningful event, this year particularly, is the Middle East, in the land of the Bible, the birthplace of Jesus. And today, I want to bring to you a very special program that comes directly to you from the Middle East. I know you will enjoy the unique music, and you will be blessed by the message. I'll come back at the end of the program and speak to you some more, so stay tuned.
Good evening, and welcome to this special celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. I wanna talk to you about two different groups of people, a group of people who have totally missed the real Christmas, and another group of people who have found the real Christmas. The first person who missed Christmas was the innkeeper. Now, we don't know his name, and by the time Dr. Luke was writing the gospel according to Luke, nobody could remember him. There was no reason to remember him. He missed the real Christmas. In his preoccupation, running his brisk and profitable business, he missed the most important event. Business was brisk, and he was preoccupied with the progress of his career. He was preoccupied with making enough money. He missed the real Christmas. Then the second person who missed the real Christmas was King Herod. Herod was a little king of Judah under the big king, Augustus Caesar. There was nothing likable about King Herod. He was cunning and conniving.
Let me tell you what Matthew 2:8, says. He issued an order to the Magi, and he said to them, "Go and make careful search for the child, and when you find him, report to me, and I, too, may go and worship him," but worship was not on his mind. It was murder that was on his mind. He knew the significance of the birth of the Messiah. He knew the salvation that the Messiah's supposed to bring, yet he only cared about himself, and he missed the real Christmas. The innkeeper missed the real Christmas. Herod missed the real Christmas, but also the religious leaders missed the real Christmas. Of all people, they should have known better. The chief priests and the scribes should have not missed the real Christmas. And these religious leaders knew that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem of Judea.
In fact, they told King Herod that, and, yet, when Herod told them about the wise men and who saw the star in the heaven, they could not be bothered to go with them to find out. What kept the religious leaders from going and worshiping the Messiah? Even they heard the wise men from the East, telling them about the star. They did not want arrival. They want to stay in control of people's lives. They wanted people to follow the rituals and stay away from worshiping the one true God. The shepherds in the field around Bethlehem area, they found the real Christmas. The wise men of science from Persia, they found the real Christmas. There can be no greater contrast than those two groups of people. As far as society was concerned, the shepherds were among the most desperate element of society. They were mistreated by people. Their reputation for honesty was so bad that they could not be witnesses in the court system.
The wise men, on the other hand, in Persia were the creme de la creme of society. They were the best that society can offer. The shepherds, on the other hand, they could not get anywhere near the fence of Herod's palace. But there is a second contrast between these two groups. It was a financial contrast, the poorest and the richest. The shepherd had nothing to give to the newborn King. Their wages were below the minimum wage, so when the angels told them about the birth of Jesus, they came empty-handed. They had nothing to offer. They didn't have enough money to eat. They traveled very close distance. On the other hand, the wealthy scientists of Persia, they traveled a very long distance. They traveled with big entourage, and they arrived with lots of gifts for the baby, King Jesus.
There is a third contrast between these two groups of people in terms of education: The shepherd had no education whatsoever. They were not able to read the Scripture, even. By contrast, the Magi were very famous for their knowledge of science and astronomy. They were equivalent of the scientists of our day, so much so, that, when they saw a unique star announcing the birth of the King of Heaven, they immediately understood what it means. But then, these two diverse groups of people had several things in common. The shepherd and the wise men were as diverse as they could. They were extreme opposites, yet both had this in common: They came to Christ. God spoke to them differently. For the uneducated shepherd, there was a dazzling light and sight and sound of angels, but for the Magi, it was equally received, the spectacular announcement, by a star in the heaven. Two different revelations, but in both cases, they recognized the Word of God when it was announced to them.
Then there's s second similarity. They both responded in obedience to the summon. Can you imagine either the shepherds or the wise men refuse the invitation from God? They could've said to this unprecedented invitation, "It's not for us". No, but they saw it as a great honor to be invited by God himself to go and watch his Son born in Bethlehem. What about you, my friend? You have heard the invitation. Christ has his arms open to you. For 2,000 years, he says, "Come unto me, all the heavy laden and burdened, and I'll give you rest".
There is a third similarity between the shepherds and the Magi. After they received the invitation, they did not only obey it, but they found the Savior. The apex of the two stories, the shepherd found what the angels told him about, and the wise men found the object of the meaning of the star. Neither of them were disappointed. Neither of them were misled. Neither of them felt they were deceived. Neither of them were dismayed. Neither of them ever regretted obedience to the invitation that God issued. First, they both received the invitation. They both responded to the summon. And, thirdly, they both saw the Savior. And, fourthly, the fourth similarity between the two groups of men, when they found the Savior, they worshiped him. Let me read to you Matthew chapter 2, verse 11. It says of the wise men, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him". In Luke chapter 2, verse 20, it says that the shepherd came, and they worshiped him. My special friends, would you worship him now? God bless you.