“To be my disciple you must follow me, must deny yourself for eternity. If you refuse your cross, you will never see the things I have prepared for those who follow me.”
To John, to Peter and Andrew too, to Mary from whom the demons fled, and my friend, to you, when Jesus extends His hand to welcome you in, and you become His disciple as He frees you from sin, He says: “To be my disciple, you must follow me, must deny yourself for eternity. If you refuse your cross, you will never see the things I have prepared for those who follow me.” Mountains or valleys, does it matter at all? With heaven before us, we must answer His call; though demons rage and men rebel again and again, the man with the nail scars is calling us friends, and He says: “To be my disciple you must follow Me, must deny yourself for eternity. If you refuse your cross, you will never see the things I have prepared for those who follow Me."
Christmas is just a few days away and in spite of the extreme commercialization and the prevailing Santa theme, the sounds of carols can still be heard. “Away in a Manger,” “We Three Kings,” and “Silent Night,” paint anew for us the ever precious picture of the baby Jesus surrounded by parents, shepherds and wise men, and overshadowed by angels. Though the scene is picturesque, it is probably not entirely accurate, at least from a Scriptural perspective. For, truth be known, the wise men should have no place by the manger. Did they not go first to king Herod seeking the Child? And did he not order the deaths of all boy babies in Bethlehem two years old and younger? We are also told they visited him in a house, not a stable so, may we not then infer the likelihood of the caravan from the east with its treasures, being introduced to Jesus and His mother somewhere close to his second birthday? But I digress.
What of the wise men? Tradition gives us three: A European, an African and one from the Far East. However, the Scriptural record denotes no number or place of origin, except to say they were from the east. It does say they “followed a star” and they gave Him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. I suspect only three gifts were mentioned because of their spiritual significance, but I imagine so long a trip and such an important subject would warrant many more such offerings. But my concern is not the number or value of either wise men or gifts but of the journey by which they arrived at his door.
Was it a trip of days, weeks or even years? Did they encounter bandits as they wound their way through treacherous mountain passes? Did they suffer through desert sand storms on the way and what other inconveniences might they have endured on their journey? What inspired their pursuit? Could it have been diplomatic or commercial interests or is it possible their studies had unearthed an unearthly truth for which they were willing to imperil themselves, their wealth and their reputations. I am certain the latter was their whole motivation.
Access to ancient prophecies, influenced by centuries old traditions, they came seeking, not just any king, but the Eternal King of kings. And having arrived in Jerusalem and assuming all of Israel would have the same impassioned interest, they went to the most obvious source for confirmation: The King! But as with all secularists, Herod was instead, horrified. Finally, the long feared threat to man’s superiority; the revelation of God’s unmitigated authority had come. Herod’s response was classic and spelled in advance the intent and action of every unregenerate government, “Deceive the wise and kill the king!” Not the first attempt to thwart God’s promise of reconciliation, (for from Cain to the present, humanity has resorted to violence and deceit), Herod’s deed though despicable was entirely predictable.
But, if the Magi had discovered the secrets of the incarnation, does it not follow they would also be cognizant of the final chapter?! The road they traveled, as difficult as it must have been, was simply prophetic of the road finally traveled by Jesus Himself and all who choose to follow Him. Comfort is forthcoming when we see the most learned and majestic personages of their age, crowded around and worshiping; having found THE KING. The same road leads all who take it to the same place. Cradle, cross and crown. The path is simple: Jesus has called us to “new birth,” a “life of self-denial” and finally “a crown” to lay at His feet.
The small inconveniences we in America have endured to date are nothing. The beheadings, crucifixions, live burials and forced slavery raging around the world are aimed, not at the innocent victims but, at Almighty God Himself, though the deceived declare it to be in His Name. In America, the worst we have endured has been an overt attempt to remove Jesus from the public forum. The result has been quite the opposite for with all the noise and controversy, they have succeeded in forcing His Name into the forefront of the Christmas conversation. We will be as wise as the Magi, if we choose to walk their road, accepting the challenge laid down by Christ to endure suffering, should it come, and to joyfully practice self-denial on our way to the Crown.
I have written a Christmas song the chorus of which explains what we each know about Christmas. The carol is titled: "Christmas Can’t Be Christmas, Without Him."
Christmas can’t be Christmas, with Him, for angels couldn’t sing their Christmas songs.
Shepherds couldn’t gather ‘round the babe and manger, Mary, Joseph, wise men, none at all. Christmas can’t be Christmas without Him, no peace on earth or good-will for all men.
Joy to the world, a fiction, for Jesus would be missing, so I’m celebrating Christmas with this song.
God bless you, God bless America, and MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone!
[Editor's comments: Ronald Gadberry is a Contributing Writer for Hugh's News. He is an ordained minister of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, and a member of the New Horizons Ministries. He is offering his services as an evangelist and singer to pastors of churches for revivals, preaching missions, and concerts.
You may contact Ronald Gadberry at the following address and/or telephone numbers:
The Rev. Mr. Ronald Gadberry
509 Cottage Park Lane
Shawnee, Oklahoma 74804
1-405-834-0479 / 1-405-808-2937
He will do your church good.]