To the Crib
December 6-7, 2003
In college, a friend of mine once said to me, “Hey, I’m going to the crib to chill.” I said, Going to the crib to chill? Going to the where?” He said, “The crib.” He said, “Ed, people are calling their house, their apartment, their dorm, the place they live, the crib.” “Really?” I said, “That’s pretty cool.” Cribs….
And now, two decades later, there’s a popular television show called “Cribs.” Have you seen “Cribs” before? It’s a pretty amazing show. Celebrities take viewers on tours of their homes, and they show the viewers, you know, what’s significant to them, what’s important to them, why this piece of art work means a lot to them and all that. And everybody’s talking about Cribs, Cribs, Cribs.
I was thinking last year, “You know, cribs is all about Christmas. Christmas is about cribs and the crib of Christ.” You know, God bounding down the staircase of Heaven with a baby in his arms. Jesus, the very Son of God, being born in a crib, growing up and leaving a crib, and dying on a cross for our sins and rising again. And now he’s the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And I thought, “That’s Christmas!”
Our lives are dwelling places of the Lord. That’s what they’re meant to be, just like we’re cribs. And if we make a crib out of our life for the Christ child to be born in there, then we can understand what life’s all about. So I thought that it would be pretty cool to do a series of talks and call it “Cribs.” Kind of a play on words, get it? Yeah, I think you got it.
Cribs. I was thinking more and more about this word “cribs.” And I thought about it—cribs. Cribs is all about that Crucial Relationship Initiated By the Savior. That’s Christmas—that crucial, paramount relationship initiated by the Savior. So we’re going to talk about cribs because during the Christmas season, it doesn’t matter if you’ve not been to church in years, it doesn’t matter if you’re testing the waters of Christianity, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian for a long, long time, all of us are confronted by the crib during this season, aren’t we? We see a little crib in manger scenes. We sing about the crib. We’re all about the crib when it comes to Christmas.
So I was thinking about kind of diving into the Christmas stories, those accounts mentioned in Matthew Chapter 2 and Luke Chapter 2, and looking at different reactions that people had to the crib. Because the crib confronts all of us. And 2,000 years ago during that inaugural Christmas, you know, people were confronted by the crib. The wise men were confronted by it. Mary and Joseph were. King Herod was. A bunch of people were confronted by the crib.
So let’s talk about this crib confrontation, because the reactions that some of these people had 2,000 years ago are pretty much the same reactions that we have. And today and next weekend, as we talk some more about cribs, I think we will see a lot of ourselves in these people during this inaugural Christmas.
So let me set the stage for Matthew Chapter 2. Here’s what happened: a group of ancient astronomers, they were like studying the stars—they were called wise men, magi—they were checking everything out. And they were seeking the truth. You know they were seeking. They knew something was missing in their lives, and God revealed to them where his Son was to be born. He revealed it to them through a star in the sky. And these guys were heavy-hitters, major players.
A lot of people think there were three wise men. Well, I hate to rain on your manger scene parade, but there were more than three. Probably four or five or six of these guys. And they were wealthy. They packed up their Louis Vuitton luggage, maybe, and they took a road trip to Jerusalem because the star was kind of in that area.
They had never been to Jerusalem before. And when they hit town, these guys were bling-blinging. They had some serious stuff going on. People knew they were in town, and everybody was like, “Wow, look at these guys, magi, astronomers. It’s pretty wacky. Unbelievable!” And now, we see the plot. Because the plot’s going to really clot here in a second.
Let’s look at Matthew 2:1-3, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” Now, I’ve been to Jerusalem before, and whenever you go to a new town, you’re checking out the sights and sounds and smells. Jerusalem is a very interesting place. It’s not safe now to go there, but one day, hopefully, we’ll be able to travel there again.
These guys were probably checking out the Mapsco, had their GPS out trying to find the major freeways, you know. But, ladies, I want to draw your attention to the first Christmas miracle here. These wise men were wise because they asked for directions. Check it out. [Matthew 1:2] “Where is the one…” This is incredible, isn’t it? “…who has been born King of the Jews?” I mean that’s a miracle—a guy asking for directions! That’s really something else. [the verse continues] “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
It doesn’t matter if you have been a Christian for 50 years, it doesn’t matter if you are brand new, you’ve all heard the Christmas story. You’ve seen it in dramas, in plays. You’ve heard about it in Christmas carols and all that stuff. And most of us just read through the Christmas story, and we think, “Okay, that’s fine. You know, the wise men showed up to Jerusalem. They were looking for the King. Let’s just go ahead and get to the main thing—the crib. You know, let’s get to Silent Night, Holy Night, Hallelujah.”
Well, that’s important. We’re going to get to the crib and how Jesus occupied the crib. That’s going to be in our 10—count them, 10—Christmas services. But right now I want you to notice the subplot. I’m going to talk about some stuff you’ve never thought about before in the Christmas story. Because so often, we casually read the Bible and think, “Okay, that’s fine and dandy.” But there’s some depth, some subterranean stuff here that we have got to check out. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Let’s talk about the subplot. Let’s talk about how the plot clots, because check this out. Matthew 1:3, “When King Herod heard this…” When he heard the fact that these Louis-Vuitton-toting wise men were in J-town asking “Where’s the King?” “When King Herod heard this,” the Bible says, “he was”—what?—“disturbed.” Read here, “freaked.” Read here, “off the hook, ballistic, on tilt, scared.” Our English language doesn’t do this translation justice here. [The verse continues] “He was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Now that kind of seems weird—King Herod disturbed and all Jerusalem with him. What’s up with that? Well, I’ll tell you what’s up with that as we go into the subplot.
Let’s talk about King Herod for a second. King Herod was confronted by the crib. King Herod grew up in a politically-wired family. As a kid, King Herod watched his father, who was also a king, get poisoned by a bunch of palace plotters. The operative word for King Herod and his family of origin was “power.” He cut his teeth on power. He learned how to keep power and wield power and dominate with power. He learned that if anybody threatened you, you rub them out because it’s all about power and control.
He became king when he was only 25 yeas old. The first thing he did was he had this big party. King Herod could throw a serious party. And he invited all the people who had anything to do with his father’s death. Then he brought in his hit men and killed them before everyone at the party! It kind of threw cold water on the party, didn’t it? A mass murder before everybody. That’s how he started out in his presidency.
A little while later, he had his wife’s grandmother and her brother killed. Now, for a second, put yourself in King Herod’s sandals. He was coming home from work in his Lamborghini chariot, parks it, walks in the kitchen, drops his briefcase on the kitchen table, and his wife goes, “Honey, Herod baby, what did you do at the office today?” “Well, I had your grandmother killed and your brother.”
I mean this guy was whacked. He was nuts! He had some serious issues, we would say, of power and control. Psychologists would say, “Oh, he was very narcissistic.” King Herod killed three of his own sons. He killed one of his sons several days before he died because Herod thought he was too hungry for his oval office. This guy was crazy, man.
But he wasn’t all crazy. He did do some good things, you know. He did some benevolent things. Like, he took this gold plate and melted it down and sold it and gave the money to the poor. He had food drives and clothing drives. To show the Jews he kind of liked them, he financed, he bankrolled the rebuilding of the temple. I mean he was something else, King Herod, Herod the Great.
He caught this disease. He was dying, and Herod knew he was right near the end. And you know he had his son killed, as I said earlier. Well, he figured out that people were not going to cry when he passed, so he thought, “I need people to mourn and weep.” So he had another party. You know, you didn’t want to be on his party list. He invited all these people, specifically all the sons and daughters of the most popular and prominent people in the land. And he had them killed, because he knew people would mourn and weep and cry. And then he died. So there was a whole feeling of sadness throughout the land when he passed away. That’s King Herod.
Now we see the rest of the story. Now we understand Matthew 2:3. Now we see why Herod was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him when these naive magi came into town and saying, “Hey, I hear there’s a new king in town.” “Shhhh! Shut up! No, he’ll [Herod] hear about it!” Now we see.
What did Herod do about it? The wise men were poking around asking questions, “Where’s the new King? Where’s the new King?” What did Herod do? Well, what do you do when you’ve spent your entire life maintaining and trying to keep power and control? What do you do when that’s your mission statement? What do you do? I’ll tell you what he did. He called in the religious leaders. He said, “Man, come over to my crib. Just tell me, tell me where this new King is going to be born.”
Let’s pick up Scripture now, Matthew 2:4, “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.” Look at Verses 5 and 6, “‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: 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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
It was no surprise about a King being born from Jews. If you know your history, the Jews were dispersed around the world. They were waiting for a king. And these religious leaders were simply quoting Micah 5:2 and 2 Samuel Chapter 2. “King Herod, here it is. Scripture says this King, this Christ is going to be born in Bethlehem.”
What was going on here? I’ll tell you what was going on here. King Herod was misusing these religious leaders. You show me someone who has issues of power and control, and I’ll show you someone who uses others, who looks at other people like they’re scenery or machinery, who looks at others like rungs on a ladder to get where they want to go. That’s what was going on. Herod couldn’t care less about the religious leaders. He just wanted to find out who this little kid was who was threatening his power. He misused.
He also misled, because the next thing he did was he invited the magi into his crib. “Come on into my crib, man. I need an astronomy lesson. I don’t know that much about the stars, and you guys know something is up and here you’re asking questions. This star thing. Just lay the charts out.”
So the wise men lay the charts out in his beautiful office desk and he looked and the wise men said, “You know, according to our calculations and deductions, this Christ child, this King was born a year and a half to two years ago.” Herod was like, “Whoa. Let me give you a high five, man! Thanks a lot. I appreciate that. You guys are wise.”
And let’s pick up reading Scripture again, Matthew 2:7-8, “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said…” Now this is hilarious. You talk about misleading! He misused and misled. He says, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.”
“Yeah, you magi, you go ahead and go, find the Christ Child. You people talk to my people, you know, then I’ll do the 5K walk to Bethlehem. And you know what? I’m such a great guy, a great king, I’ll do the coronation myself. I mean, I’ll give up my throne and I’ll give him the crown. You know, this is what I want to do. I want to worship him. I really do.” He was misleading them.
You show me someone who has issues of power and control, and I’ll show you someone who misuses others. And also, I’ll show you someone who misleads others, who lies, who exaggerates, who will put a sinister spin on stuff to make them look good, to keep them in power and control, to keep them running the show and calling the shots in their life.
Here’s what happened. I mean, the wise men were born at night, but not last night. They went to Bethlehem. It’s only 5K away, and I’ll talk about that next weekend. I would love to talk to you about it today, but I can’t. We don’t have enough time. But next weekend I’m talking about the wise men and the magi, because these people were true seekers. Every time you find someone in the Bible seeking, God always reveals himself to them. Always. If they’re truly seeking.
Anyway, the wise men go to the crib. They worship and the Bible says they returned by another route. In other words, they did not tell Herod they found Jesus. When Herod found out they had, you know, dissed him—oh, man! Herod, you can imagine, Herod? He went nuts! Here’s what he did. He hired his hit men to take the life of every child in Bethlehem two years old and under.
Hey, parents, you’re eating dinner, the door is kicked in by a soldier, and the soldier kills your son before your very eyes. That’s what kind of guy we’re talking about here.
You show me someone who has issues of power and control and I’ll show you someone who mistreats others. That’s what Herod did. I know we don’t have any mass murders here, but sometimes, I think, many of us can mistreat others.
At this point in the talk you might be going, “Wow, Ed, this is a pretty interesting history lesson. I mean I didn’t know this stuff. Wow! Pretty wild. Herod, whoa! But how does Herod relate to me? I mean, what do I have in common with him?” Well, I’ve been kind of hinting around a little bit. I’ve been kind of going there. Let me tell you, all of us—if we’re brutally honest—all of us have a hint of Herod in our lives. Let’s just face it. I do, and so do you. I want, many times in my life, power and control. I want to call the shots for Ed. I want to carve my own course. I want to do my own deal, determine my own destiny. I’m in charge. I’m on the throne. I’m king of my life. I sovereignly rule over a universe called “Me.” I know what makes me look good, what makes me feel good, what gives me pleasure, power and control.
As you read Herod’s life, though, Herod hydroplaned through life. He mistreated others. He misused them. He misled them. Whenever we run our lives, we’re signing up for exactly what Herod experienced. We’re signing up for an empty life. We’re signing up for a life that will never ever hit on all cylinders. Inevitably, that will occur in all of our lives if we think we can run the show. Because we’re not wired, we’re not made to sit on the throne of our lives and call the shots. More about that later.
There’s a hint, though, of Herod in all of our lives. “Well, Ed, how do you know that?” Just stay with me. There’s a hint of Herod in all of our lives. I’m going to just challenge you right now to ask yourself three questions. These are the same questions I asked myself this week. Now, it’s very tempting when I throw these questions out at you to think about someone who really needs this, to go, “Oh, man, I’m going to go buy this CD in the store and give it to my boss.” “Man, my best friend needs this, and I’m going to give it to him.”
That’s cool, but I’m talking between you and God, between me and God. So I’m going to share these questions that I thought of a while back, and you can apply these questions to your life. This is how to do a quick Herod heart analysis. Are you ready? Okay.
IN WHAT AREA DO I TEND TO MISUSE OTHERS?
In what area of your crib, of your existence, of your life, do you tend to misuse people? In what area? Do you tend to see people as scenery or machinery, as pawns, as objects, as rungs on a ladder to get to where you want to go? In what area of your crib, of your existence do you do that?
How about in marriage? It’s getting quiet now. Do you ever tend to see your spouse as just a sex object? This thing to fulfill your desires? Maybe you see your spouse as just an ATM machine? What’s behind that is the issue of power and control.
How about in the workplace? Do you find yourself schmoozing your boss or others? “Hey, you’re awesome, man. You’re great.” And you’re doing that, not because you think they’re awesome and great. You’re doing that to get to where you want to go. “I want the corner office. I want the big, fat Christmas bonus. Oh, boy, you’re unbelievable.” It’s convicting, isn’t it?
Parents, especially single parents, do you ever use your kids, I mean misuse them? I know you wouldn’t do it just overtly, but do you ever use them as pawns against your ex-spouse? Parents, do you ever find yourself using your kids to maybe attain what you didn’t attain athletically, educationally, relationally?
You show me someone who has issues of power and control and I’ll show you somebody who will misuse other people. And they do it because of fear of losing control, losing control. “I’ll use you to get what I want or to keep the position that I think I should have.”
IN WHAT AREA DO I TEND TO MISLEAD OTHERS?
Here’s a second question. Just between you and God now, ask yourself, “In what area of my crib do I tend to mislead others?” Herod misled those wise men. Do you ever mislead others?
I worked with a guy years ago who was a great liar. It was unbelievable how good this guy could lie! He could look at you and even tear up and just lie. And I believed him. I want to see the best in people. I bought it. “Yeah, okay. That’s something! Really?” And after a while I began to look below the surface and below the little plot to the subplot and, “Wait a minute! What you’re saying is not true. You’re exaggerating. You’re falsifying.” It was amazing, and as I look at the reasoning behind it, it was all about power and control. He thought if he came clean and told the truth about his condition that people would see him lesser than; that he would fall off the throne of his life. We mislead others. It’s just staggering how many people live a life that way. Just living a lie, a lie of misrepresentation, of falsifying stuff, of padding stuff, and we’re not real. We’re not open.
The most popular series I’ve ever done here at Fellowship Church is a series I did this fall called “Just Lust.” I didn’t realize how many people, how many men and women, deal with lust. And I defined lust; I said that lust is not being attracted to a member of the opposite sex. All of us are going to be attracted. Lust happens, though, when an attraction segues into an illicit sexual action—remember this—that is physical or emotional or mental. That’s when lust plays out.
I discovered, though, a lot of men, especially, mislead a lot of people. Because a lot of men have a secret life of lust. And this life of lust is fine for a lot of guys because it gives them thrills and chills and an adrenaline rush. Yet, they mislead their wife or others like they don’t have a problem with it because they like the power and control of keeping it. But in many situations and circumstances, it’s messing them up. It’s controlling them. And even if you don’t think it is right now, inevitably it will.
So instead of misleading others and thinking you’re misleading God, just come clean this Christmas season and say, “I want to be a truth teller. I want to be honest, God, before you and before others. God, I have a white knuckle grip right now on the armrests of my throne. And, God, I want to turn my hands heavenward and say, ‘God, have your way in my life. I don’t want to use others. I want to see them for who they are that they matter to God.’” Because we’ve never locked eyes with someone who does not matter to God. “I don’t want to mislead anybody anymore. I want to speak the truth in love.”
IN WHAT AREA DO I TEND TO MISTREAT OTHERS?
Here’s the third question: “In what areas of your crib do you tend to mistreat others?” Again, not like the megalomaniac Herod, but I mean to mistreat others. For example, why do we cut people down? Why do we gossip? Why do we slander?
Do you know what slander is? It’s telling the truth about you in order to hurt you. We do it because of power and control. We think if I rip you apart or you rip me apart, it somehow elevates, you know, the person doing the ripping. And it just hammers and lowers those you’re ripping. But it’s really just the opposite. It’s true. Why do we do it? Because of power and control. “I’ll have my power over you. I’ll jam you.”
Around the Christmas holidays, we’re thrust into a lot of environments with family and all the relatives and friends and people who have mistreated us. You know it’s kind of hard, isn’t it? “My dad mistreated me. My mom did. My brother, my cousin, my uncle….” But so often, we’ve mistreated them. Because we’ve been mistreated [by them], we’ve mistreated them. We jam them, we rip them. And what’s so weird is around the holiday season we act like everything is cool. “Silent night, holy night. You want some more cocoa? Here’s some Christmas cookies. Everything’s fine. No problem.”
What are we doing, man? We’re living in pseudo-community. That’s not community. Why not—I’m just challenging you and me—why not, this holiday season, just take that relative aside or that friend aside that has mistreated you. Take that person aside that you’ve mistreated and say, “You know what? I’ve messed up. I’ve messed you around. But I want to ask you to forgive me.” Don’t point out all the junk they’ve done to you. You just talk about what you’ve done. You will not believe what’ll happen.
You know, it’s funny how we take stuff, especially from relatives, and we think they’ve mistreated us. You know, one time my brother Ben—I didn’t forgive him for this—Ben went out, and for my Christmas gift, do you know what he bought me? Three pair of socklets! He got them on last call at Marshalls. Now, I love Marshalls, but they cost $2.99! I said, “Man, Lisa, can you believe that? Ben giving me sockets? That’s it? His brother? It’s a joke.” So I thought, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll just wear those socklets for a year. Then I’ll just give them right back to him.” No, I shouldn’t do that, should I? I need to go to Ben and say, “Hey, what’s the deal?” Maybe we’ll give Ben this tape, I don’t know. That’s kind of a crazy thing.
But we end up getting our feelings all hurt and everything is frosty and everything is cold. We put on this fake, game-show-host-type smile, and we’re not real with others. We need to be real. We need to be real.
Cribs—this is going to be an outstanding series in all of our lives, because it’s about that Crucial Relationship Initiated By the Savior. Do you realize that you’re loved by God? I mean, do you realize that? You might not have ever thought that, but God loves you and God loves me more than we can even comprehend. If we realized how much he loved us, we would just have sensory overload. We couldn’t stand it! And he loves us enough to speak the truth to us. He loves us so much, he’s told us time and time again, that we’re not designed, we’re not wired to run the show. We’re not made to call the shots.
So what about you? Isn’t it about time to just take your white knuckle grip off the armrest of your throne that you sit on as you rule your life? Isn’t it about time that you say, “God, I don’t want to misuse, mistreat, or mislead anybody. I want to do life your way. I want to give control of my life to you. Because I understand now that you designed me so you could live in my crib and sit on my throne and run the show. God, I give you my upwardly mobile career. God, I give you my marriage. God, I give you my life. God, it’s not working. I’ve been trying to do it, but like Herod, I’m hydroplaning.”
Don’t go Herod. Just let Jesus sit and lay and rule and reign from the crib of your heart. Because when you do, you’ll understand that Crucial Relationship Initiated By the Savior was played out just for you.