At the time of Jesus' birth, Magi came from the East seeking "the new King." This worried King Herod....
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, "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
An angel warned Joseph and the wise men in dreams that Herod wanted to kill Jesus, so Joseph took the family to Egypt and the wise men returned home a different route.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
-Matthew 2: 7-8, 16
The Christmas story, the birth of Christ, is not covered by all four Gospel writers. Mark and John begin with his ministry, skipping that part of the story. But it's too big a story for just one Gospel. Matthew and Luke cover different aspects. Matthew, for instance, tells us the story of the wise men (never mentioning how many), their journey, and their gifts, as well as their interaction with Herod. Luke, man of the margins, focuses on the shepherds.
We think of the Christmas story as one story or one account, rather than two. As a result of these different focuses, we sometimes draw the conclusion that the one story is drawing our attention to the great difference between local poor shepherds and distant rich kings. And while it's absolutely an important point that God draws all people to the birth, both high and low, there's more going on in the story, and we have to take care not to miss it. Going back to just Matthew's Gospel, we see both the wise men and another king. Remember? Herod, the local ruler, upset about the news of a new king when the magi (the distant kings) arrive.
This is where it gets interesting. The biggest polar opposite in the story isn't the rich and the poor people seeking Christ. It's their reaction to his birth. The shepherds and wise men hear of his birth and go to worship him, giving thanks and offering gifts. King Herod responds very differently from the wise men he meets. He is terrified, and he plots to kill the new king. Matthew is telling us some important things about wealth and power - you don't have to have it to be welcome at the feet of Christ, but you do have to be willing to give it up to Christ. There is good news here for poor people and for rich. But this is devastating news to those who love power and wealth more than God or God's people.
As we approach Christmas, it's worth asking ourselves important questions. In our day and age, people are still oppressed. We still have refugees like Christ's family. We still have poor and rich. People in service and agricultural jobs and people of learning and education. We still have powerful leaders. If Christ returned today, who would be eager for a message of hope and relief to the suffering and who would cling to their power and wealth and continue to oppress, to scatter families, and refuse change that looks like love and peace? Who would look like wise men, bowing humbly and offering gifts, and who would plot to keep what they have and not share it with the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the lonely and lost? Because Christ's kingdom is our job to help build, and our nation and world can be changed by our participation and following God's call each day.