Oh, Cedar Tree! Oh, Cedar Tree!
Read: Matthew 2:1-18; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
This week, we put up and decorated the Christmas tree while listening to seasonal music. It is a pretty artificial one with flocking that sticks not only to the tree but also to us. This is probably our third artificial tree, but for the first several years of marriage, we had live trees. I especially love cedars. Oh my, I enjoy that fragrance, and when we happily displayed that variety, the living room was permeated with that pungent sweet aroma. However, one year I learned that the scent which was lovely to me had the opposite effect on a friend of mine. May I explain?
Her name is Jean, and she is now with her Savior Whom she loves. She had come to pick me up for a Bible study which she held in her home. When she walked into our apartment, I could tell something wasn't quite right. The tree which brought me so much joy was having an effect on her breathing. Because of that, we went quickly out to her vehicle. It wasn't all good for her even then because my coat carried the cedar fragrance; so, it took a bit of being out in the cold fresh air before she was comfortable again. I had no idea that she was allergic to cedar. My joy was surely misery for her.
In Matthew 2:1-18, we read about three very different reactions to the wondrous news of Jesus' birth. Imagine it. The Promised One had at long last been born as had been foretold in Micah 5:2. Yet, we see by their reactions that this news was a sweet fragrance to some and an aroma of death or something to merely yawn over to others.
1. Herod-He believed that a king had come. We know this is true by his malevolent reaction to the priests' words from the prophesy. If he hadn't believed in the veracity of the prophet's words, Herod would have disregarded what was said and gone on with his every-day activities. Sadly, his belief was akin to Satan's, James 2:19-20. He trembled and worked against the Holy One, attempting to thwart God's gracious and unstoppable plan. The fruit of Herod's belief produced death and sorrow for himself and those he effected.
2. The priests and religious leaders-they knew the right answers to the wise men's questions. They had spent their lives studying, and no doubt, it took them no time at all to quote the prophesy about Bethlehem and that out of that seemingly insignificant place the One to shepherd Israel would come. Their response wasn't a cruel one; rather, they merely passed on their knowledge without doing anything about it for themselves. It is a bit like telling others that there is fire right down the hill but not preparing to evacuate one's personal premises. Their belief brought no life into their own lives. At least not at this most wondrous of times.
3. The wise men-They rejoiced and acted upon what they heard. We read that the special light in the sky that had guided them continued to do so, and they rejoiced. These unnamed men were the only ones from Matthew 2 whose lives were impacted positively by hearing truth. When they heard where the Promised One was to be born, and when they were warned not to trust Herod, they acted upon these truths. Truth brought joy and sweetness into their lives. They actually saw Messiah. They were the only ones from Matthew 2 who had the joy of honoring Him and giving Him gifts.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, we are reminded that we who belong to Jesus carry a fragrance that is pouring out through our lives. To some, we are the fragrance of life, and we receive a response akin to the one given by the wise men. However, the opposite is sometimes true.
Several years ago, I was having a conversation with another believer. We were talking about a mutual friend whose life Jesus had changed. We surely were to each other a sweet fragrance. We were enjoying speaking about the Lord's goodness. All of a sudden, someone else in the room who doesn't yet know Jesus' love for him became angry and defensive. He had merely overheard our conversation, and the fragrance of our words was definitely having a bad effect on him. The funny thing is that we weren't even trying to share with him, but that aroma of life wasn't setting well with him at all. It was as if he were allergic to the scent in the room. I'm so thankful that it isn't my responsibility to force Jesus' fragrance upon anyone. Instead, it will be poured out as the Lord chooses.
Perhaps today, we are the fragrance of death even to some we love. Yet, tomorrow it might be different. That is part of the sweetness of Christmas. Whosoever may still come, John 3:16.
Thank You Lord.