Apparently, 2020 was not strange enough to keep people from stealing baby Jesus from nativity scenes from community and church displays. From sorority sisters to the Walmart employee who posted a photo of himself with the stolen statue of Jesus on Facebook (Cooper) and (Kulze). But it is not a new phenomenon. December 1953, the year I was born. Detective Friday took on the case of “The Big Little Jesus” on Dragnet. In this case, Friday and Smith (this is before Harry Morgan was on the show) tell the priest they can’t find Jesus.
In the midst of the dialogue a young boy, Paco Mendoza, shows up with baby Jesus in a wagon. He had promised the Baby Jesus the first ride in his new wagon for which he’d prayed. Father Rojas explains that Paco’s family is poor to which Friday replies, “Are they Father (Snauffer)?” Case closed.
Jesus has been stolen as a prank or as an act of hatred. Paco fulfilled his promise of the first ride in his new wagon. Sadder is that Jesus is often just overlooked or ignored even during this season of His birth.
This disinterest is one of three responses to Jesus we see in Matthew 2. That’s the response of those scribes whom Herod tasked with researching Messiah and His birth. For them, it was a research problem to be answered even though, as descendants of Abraham, they had a vested interest in the coming of Messiah.
The very ones who should be watching for Messiah missed Him. The People of God missed God’s greatest gift of love and ends up being upstaged by pagan stargazers.
The excuses I hear are, “I tried the ‘Jesus thing’ when I was younger”. Or “I’m so busy keeping up with life I don’t have the (time, energy, attention, etc.) to put into religion.” Others aren’t willing to take a stand for Jesus because they know their world, friends, and even jobs, depend on distancing themselves from Christ
, In my opinion, the saddest is the response like Beni, a wishy-washy character, in the 1999 movie The Mummy. Confronted with the creature Beni, presents various talismans from a necklace and prays or makes incantations to protect him. Finally, he holds out a “Star of David” and in Hebrews says, "'Do not fail to protect me’. The mummy pauses and in ancient Egyptian answers 'The language of the slaves...I may have use for you.' (Sommers).” Sadly, most people fall into the camp that doesn't seek God till they are threatened.
Hatred and Fear
More evident in this story is the fear and hatred of Herod. It is an understatement to say he was paranoid. He had a wife and at least two sons killed because he feared plots against him. This was so well known that a Caesar August joked it was preferable to be Herod’s pig (hus) than his son (huios). This is especially insulting since Herod was Jewish.
The coming of Messiah would strip Herod of all he had and his very identity as king. Messiah would disrupt the ‘peace’ between Rome and Israel. This hatred would lead Herod to order the death of children around Bethlehem.
The rarest response and the one we wish to see in our lives is that of the Magi—worship.
What we don’t know about the Magi is greater than what we do know. We don’t know their names. We don’t know what ‘star’ they saw which led them to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. We don’t know how many of them there were. We can only guess at the reasons for the gifts they bring. Matthew doesn’t answer any of these questions. The other gospel writers don’t mention them at all.
Here is what we do learn from these men. We are to keep an eye out for Christ and what God is busy doing in our world. Their learning lets them see the significance of the star or alignment. They knew it was more than important it was life-altering.
Do we realize this today? To what extent do we choose to live as if this truth was all that matters? Jesus repeatedly told us to be awake and keep watch as to the times. That isn’t just concerning the end times. Paul is aware of God’s shutting doors and leading him to Greece. What is God up to in your life? Have you asked Him? Have you prayed over the possibilities or, like some of us, made up your mind then asked God to make it work out?
Secondly, they took steps to honor God by seeking this king. The only reason Herod was involved with these travelers was they expected this king to be born in the palace. Where else would a King be born? After all, the son of the King is the next King, usually. I am assuming they must have been somewhat confused by this, knowing Herod was the king but had no idea about this child's birth.
Gaining the information they needed they continued their course, following this star. Once found they enter the house, worship the child, and give gifts to Him. Three to six weeks from Persia or elsewhere to welcome a new king and he is found a regular village house.
What it does say that they “worshipped” Him. They didn’t just honor Him. There is no sign they believed as we do but I must believe they saw something unique in this child. He was more than just the King of the Jews. He was more than the son of Herod. Warned of Herod’s duplicity, these men found another way home. But what about us.
Where are you standing—buried in your daily life and work; standing with Herod in Jerusalem; or entering into the house to worship Jesus? Where do you go from here?
Cooper, Wes. "Baby Jesus Stolen from a Local Church's Nativity Scene." wjbf.com. N.p., 2019. Web. 28 Dec. 2020.
Kulze, Elizabeth. "A Brief History of Stealing Baby Jesus." Vocativ. 2013. Web. 28 Dec. 2020.
"The Little Big Jesus" Dragnet. 24 December 1953 Jack
Parpola, Simo. "The Magi and The Star." Biblical Archaeological Society 2001. Web. 28 Dec. 2020.
Snauffer, Douglas (2006). Crime Television. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, (Greenwood Publishing Group).
Sommers, Stephen. The Mummy. USA Morocco: Universal Production, 1999. DVD.