Do You Hear What I Hear?

Bible Book: Matthew  2 : 1-6
Subject: Christmas; Christ, Birth of

The story is told of a woman who was traveling overseas, years ago, when a piece of jewelry caught her eye. She sent a telegram back to her husband that read: “Found a beautiful necklace. $500 dollars. May I please buy it?”

When the husband received the message, he quickly sent a reply back that said, “No. Price too high.” Unfortunately, when the telegram was sent, the period was left out, and the message read, “No price too high.”

It is amazing how the very same message can be received in very different ways, depending on who hears it. Such is the case in Matthew chapter two, when the news reached Jerusalem of the birth of Jesus. The wise men came from the east looking for Him.

Matthew tells us they came into town saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” (2:2)

The revelation of the birth of Jesus had brought them from afar, and while you think it would have been welcome news in the Jewish capital city, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

The religious leaders of the day were called in and asked about the birth, but they expressed little interest in the infant Messiah.

In this passage we are reminded of the fact that not everybody is excited about Christmas. Though angels announced His arrival, not everyone on earth is glad to hear it.

I wonder; when someone says, “Merry Christmas,” do you hear what I hear? Are you touched by the news of the birth of Him who is the King of kings, or, like Herod and Jerusalem of old, are you troubled by it?

Perhaps, the message of Christ’s birth really doesn’t affect you at all? Either way, I want us to consider the different responses we find in this text, and see how they may apply to us today.

Looking at the opening verses of Matthew 2, we find here firstly that:


In Matthew chapter two, the wise men are the first to respond to the message of Christ’s birth. Verse one says, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.”

Most of what we think we know about the wise men today comes from myth and legend. The Scriptures actually offer us little information about them. They are mysterious characters who appear only briefly in the Biblical drama.

What we do know about them is that the news of the birth of Jesus inspired them to travel all the way to Jerusalem in order to give Him the honor He is due.

They remind us of all those people down through the years whose lives have been changed by the message of King Jesus. Consider their story with me. Notice first of all:

A. The revelation that came to them

The word translated “wise men” in the King James, is the Greek word for Magi. The Magi were a group of priests who lived in the region of Babylon and Persia for many years.

The word “magic” is derived from their name, and may indicate some of their practices. They were also students of the stars and therefore experts in astronomy.

That explains why they said in verse 2, “…for we have seen his star in the east…” They had noted the presence of a new star in the horizon, and it had aroused their interest.

The question still remains, though, how did they know that it was His star, the one born King of Jews?

While we are not completely sure, I think we may have at least a clue. We know that there were Jews who lived in Babylon for many years.

We also know that many of those Jews became very influential within those kingdoms. In fact, in Daniel 2, there is a very interesting fact recorded for us.

Daniel 2:48 says, “Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon (emphasis added).”

We know that Daniel was given insight into the coming of the Messiah, and it is at least likely that he shared that knowledge with the wise men around Him.

Either way, we know that these wise men did not come to Jerusalem based purely on their own studies and findings. Somewhere, God had revealed the truth of His Son to them.

In much the same way, those who come to know Christ today must somewhere have their eyes opened to who Jesus is and to the reality of His Lordship. I Corinthians 2:10 says that God reveals this to us by His Spirit.

In Matthew 16:17, following Peter’s great confession of Christ, Jesus said, “…flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

In spite of all the mystery surrounding these wise men, we do know this much, somewhere the revelation of Christ came to them.

Consider not only the revelation that came to them, but notice further:

B. The response that came from them

Having heard that the King of the Jews was born, and having seen His star, these wise men were inspired to respond to the new-born King.

Their response to Jesus speaks to us even today. Consider it with me. Theirs was a response of action. They left their homeland behind in pursuit of Jesus.

Their response was no mere mental assent. They did not say, “Oh, how nice! The King of the Jews has been born. I believe it. That is enough.” No, long before Brother James ever wrote it, these men knew that faith without works is dead.

Too many today know that fact but have yet to act. They know about Jesus, but they have done nothing about Jesus.

These men responded with action. They also responded with adoration. They made it clear why they had come. They said, “…we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (emphasis added).”

They came to offer Him the worship He was due. Later in the chapter we find them offering gifts to the Lord Jesus.

I wonder, what have you brought to Jesus today? Did you bring Him the sacrifice of praise? Have you offered Him the gift of your service?

Increasingly it seems that Jesus’ birthday is quite a strange celebration. Everyone gets gifts except for the One whose birth we are celebrating.

The message of Christmas should do more than fill you with Holiday cheer. It should inspire you to pursue Him who was born King of the Jews, and give yourself to Him in worship and adoration.

Legend has it that one day Satan and His demons were having a holiday party. With an evil grin, one of the demons said to Satan, “Merry Christmas, your majesty.” Satan responded, “Yes, keep it merry. If they ever get serious about it, we’ll all be in trouble.”[i]

For some, the message of Christmas is serious. It is the inspiration for their lives. Looking further at this text, we see a different response to that message.

For some, Christmas is an inspiring message. Notice also that:


You would not think that the news of a baby born in a little place like Bethlehem would be worrisome to anyone. Nevertheless, we read in verse three, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Today, the real meaning of Christmas is buried so far under sleigh bells, St. Nick, and sheets of wrapping paper that only a Grinch can find any reason to resent it.

Yet, when the real and full meaning of Christmas is proclaimed, increasingly there are those who are uncomfortable with the idea of a sovereign Savior sent to redeem and rule over the world.

Think with me about Herod and Jerusalem, and what it was that so bothered them about the birth of Jesus. First of all, consider:

A. The challenge Jesus represented

It is not too hard to figure out why Herod was so bothered by the news of a new-born king. He was the king of Judea, appointed by the Roman government.

A heaven-sent King, sought out by wise men from the east was a clear challenge to Herod’s throne. For Jesus to reign, Herod would have to be deposed.

While most will not oppose Jesus with the same violence that King Herod did, they nonetheless oppose Him for the same reason.

You see; there are many people who recognize that for Jesus to be King, it means they cannot be. They cannot rule their own life if Jesus is given His rightful place.

People are not particularly intimidated by a baby in a manger. Most folks are fine with that image of Jesus. What bothers them is the grown-up Jesus who asks questions like, “…why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)

They don’t mind singing “Silent Night”, but “I Surrender All” is a little much for them to swallow. They recognize the challenge to their personal freedom when Jesus says, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Herod knew that a king had been born. Don’t be mistaken all these years later by believing that Jesus is anything less than that. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

You cannot be the king of your world and follow Jesus at the same time. He wants preeminence in your life; not just a part in it.

For King Herod, the message of Christmas was intimidating because of the challenge Jesus represented. Looking at our text, we are mindful also of:

B. The change Jesus required

As I first began to read over this text, there was a statement that immediately stuck out at me. Look again at verse three.

It says, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Notice carefully that last phrase, “…and all Jerusalem with him.”

I understand why Herod was worried. He was the king, and a new king was a threat. However, I was surprised to read that all Jerusalem was troubled as well.

You would think that Jerusalem would be eager to welcome their long-promised ruler, the seed of David, whose kingdom was to be in Jerusalem.

And yet, they too were troubled at the news of His birth. Why is that? The only thing I can figure is that they were comfortable with the status quo.

They didn’t really like Herod, and they hated living under Roman rule, but they just weren’t that eager for an uprising and a major change in their way of life.

Unfortunately, there are many people today who don’t really like the message of Jesus, because they recognize what a change it will mean for them to follow Him.

It is not that they are particularly happy with the way life is, but they aren’t quite desperate enough to repent of their sins, and give their life completely to King Jesus.

Not too long ago I witnessed to a man who readily admitted to me that he was lost, and that he knew he needed to be saved.

However, he said that he was not ready to be saved because he knew that to be saved there were going to have to be major changes in the way he lived his life.

He is right, and though I pray daily for that man’s salvation, the reality is that He is not yet ready for the King to come to town. He is troubled by the good news of Jesus.

Paul said, “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…” (II Corinthians 5:17). Some people are too satisfied with the old creature to want Christ make them a new one.

In Matthew 2, we see that for some, Christmas is an inspiring message. Furthermore, we see that for some, Christmas is an intimidating message. Notice a third response we see in this text. That is:


Look back at our text, and notice what Herod did once he heard from the wise men about this new-born king.

Verse 4 says, “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.”

The “chief priests and scribes” were the religious leaders of the Jewish people. They were the ones teaching in the Temple, and overseeing the spiritual life in Jerusalem.

These scripture scholars were also exposed to the message of Jesus’ birth, but unlike the wise men who were inspired by it, and Herod who was intimidated by it, these men essentially responded with indifference.

The fact that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem was of little concern to them. Though they were conscious of it, they were not all that concerned with it.

By in large, this is how most people respond to the message of Christmas. It is an interesting story at best, but nothing to get too excite about.

Consider the reaction of these religious leaders to the message of Christmas. Consider first of all that:

A. They had all of the facts

Herod called these chief priests and scribes in because they were the ones who knew best what the Word of God had said regarding the coming of the Messiah.

And, when he called them in, sure enough, they knew just what text to turn to. They pointed Herod to Micah’s prophecy, saying, “In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet.”

In verse 6, they even gave Herod a paraphrase of the prophecy, saying, “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”

They had the facts about the coming Messiah. They knew what the Bible said about Him. Nevertheless, we don’t find them rushing out of Herod’s presence, in search of their long-awaited Lord.

There is a reminder here that knowing the facts is simply not enough! Being able to recite the Scriptures is no indication that you have truly believed them!

This past week, at TV Station in Tulsa, OK, went out to the local mall to see how people would fare taking a simple quiz about the true meaning of Christmas. The quiz consisted of 15 basic questions concerning the biblical account of the birth of Jesus.

At the end of the day, the two lowest scores were 60%, and the average score was 74%. The online article that I read ends with this line: “Perhaps people do understand the meaning of Christmas.”[ii]

The reality is that for the most part, at least in our country, people know the basic details regarding the birth of Jesus. They may not be Bible scholars, but they have the facts about the real meaning of Christmas.

Looking back at these religious leaders, we are mindful that while they had all of the facts, notice also that:

B. They had none of the faith

Dr. Ivor Powell says of these men, “One would almost expect those religious leaders, having heard the news that the Messiah had been born, to start running in the direction of the nearby birthplace.”

He goes on and says, “Alas, Matthew was unable to record that event. The priests who knew so much did so little!”[iii]

These men had heads full of knowledge, but their hearts were empty of the true saving faith that will cause a man to run to Jesus.

I fear there are more of these kinds of men alive today than ever before. They know about the angels, Mary, Joseph, and the manger scene. They know about the Savior born in Bethlehem.

Yet, having all those facts, they have no true faith. They have not responded like the shepherds and the wise men, which came to see the new-born king.

Christmas comes and goes each year, and while they may nod their head in acknowledgement of its meaning, they have yet to bow their knee in adoration to Him who is born King of the Jews, and will reign as King over all.

In contrast to the religious leaders, who knew the facts but had no faith, are the humble shepherds whom heaven chose to inform first about the birth of Jesus.

While the priests and scribes returned to the temple, giving little thought to the message of Christ’s birth, the humble shepherds said in Luke 2:15, “…Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

If the Lord has made known unto you the truth of Christmas, don’t settle merely to know the facts of the matter. Determine to come to Jesus, and know for yourself Him who is the message of Christmas.

Though many think it is much older, the song, “Do you hear what I hear?” was actually written in October of 1962.

The lyrics were written by Noel Regney, and were inspired, not by the message of Christmas, but by the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

While millions will celebrate the Christmas holiday, not everyone feels the same when they hear the true message of Christmas.

For some, the truth of Jesus is inspirational, and moves them to worship the God who became flesh for the sake of our salvation.

Others want little to do with a king. They are not ready to give over their lives to someone else.

Still others are altogether indifferent towards Jesus. They have heard the story and know the facts, but they have yet to respond to what God has done for them in Christ.

What about you? When it comes to the message of Christmas, do you hear what I hear?

[i] Swindoll, Charles, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, (Word Publishing, Nashville, 1998), p. 82

[ii] “The Christmas Story, Could You Pass a Test?”, 12/9/10,, accessed 12/10/10,

[iii] Powell, Ivor, Matthew’s Majestic Gospel, (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1986), p. 38