At the end of today's sermon, Melchior left us with a stark choice: "You can be a Herod, or you can be a wise man or woman."
A Herod is interested in autonomy, freedom, and control of his/her life and destiny. A wise person on the other hands, submits all his/her hopes and dreams to Christ.
Maybe you have never considered that Christianity calls you to any particular commitment, or makes any radical claims on your life. Much of religion simply preaches the message that "it's nice to be nice''! That is, keep the golden rule when it is convenient--you'll feel better about yourself.
But the Christmas story itself doesn't seem interested in being nice. Jesus comes into the world as one who destabilises and challenges established authority. In many Greek inscriptions, Augustus was hailed as "savior of the whole world."; the emperor also bore the title of kyrios, "Lord"(from Feasting on the Word Commentary). And yet, at the very birth of Jesus, the angels proclaimed to the shepherds the birth of a new Savior, Messiah, Lord.
The wise men from the east recognise the Lordship of Jesus and bow their knees to him. But when Herod hears of this new ruler and king, he responds with murderous rage.
Jesus has challenged many kings and wise men, and he continues challenges the rule and wisdom of our hearts. He invites us to reconsider what we consider good. He invites us to relinquish our autonomy, and to trust him and follow him.
I distinctly remember struggling as a young person with whether Jesus could be trusted with my future. Maybe clearer than I do now, I saw his radical nature. And I wasn't sure I was willing to go where he was leading.
But Jesus has proven to me, to be a good leader and wise king. He has helped me see that while he is devoted to God's purposes, he doesn't use people, but is committed to my flourishing. Ever so gently he has helped me see that when I'm in the driver's seat I keep ending up in the ditch, but when I trust him with the wheel I find myself in spacious places.
Submitting myself to Jesus is NOT something I've perfected, but something I'm learning and relearning. I still struggle my own stubbornness, my willfulness, and sin. There is still a lot of Herod left in me. But by God's grace a wise man is being formed.
Which brings us back to Melchior's question and challenge. How about you? Are you a Herod? Or are you a wise man or wise woman? How are you responding to Christ.