God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 29-December-2013
28 December 2013Posted by on
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 2: 10-12, 17-18; Matthew 2:13-23
You can read these Scriptures here: NIV // NRSV // The Message
Christmas is supposed to be a happy time.
That’s why King Herod doesn’t fit the Christmas story. Plastic Nativity scenes sold in Walmart do not include a glow-in-the-dark Herod. Church Christmas pageants do not have the Herod character in them. Christmas cards do not quote Matthew 2:18, “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
The reading from Matthew that we just heard does not feel like it belongs in the Christmas story. This part of the Christmas story does not seem to fit the mood of the holidays, AND YET we need to hear it. We need to hear it because when we do not hear the whole story, we get the story wrong.
King Herod reminds us that in the midst of blinking decorations and flickering candles, evil attacks goodness and darkness threatens to extinguish the light. When we ignore the darkness, we ignore the reality of our lives. When we leave King Herod out of the Christmas narrative, we create a make-believe world, and we do that because we think that we are supposed to keep the hardships of the real world away from Christmas.
King Herod was a tyrant. King Herod executed his favorite wife, his brother-in-law, and three of his sons on suspicion that they wanted his crown (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_the_Great). King Herod was also a popular king. He started many construction projects which meant low unemployment and also assured relative quiet on the political arena: idle hands tend to revolt and Herod did not like idle hands. He made sure that there was a chicken in every pot and that the masses had enough reasons to remain humble while also having reasons to be grateful to him. King Herod was a tyrant. He did not tolerate disobedience and did not think twice about wasting someone’s life if there was even a hint of a challenge to his authority.
No wonder the angel in Joseph’s dream was agitated and urged the holy family to disappear from the local scene. We usually imagine angels speaking in soft, reassuring tones; in today’s story the angel is agitated and there is a sense of urgency in his command. Because of that warning, the Holy Family escaped to Egypt. They were far from home, but the baby was safe.
Herod ordered his soldiers to kill every boy in Bethlehem two years old and younger. That event was so morbid and so terrible that Matthew could not find words to describe the horror; that is why he quotes words from the Scroll of Jeremiah, “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18).
The Christmas narrative has soldiers with drawn swords in the streets; mothers clutching their babies, hiding in the closet, trying not to breathe too loudly, and begging their infants not to cry. I cannot stop myself from wondering why the angel did not warn other parents as well or why the birth of Jesus did not stop the atrocities.
This is a sad and tragic chapter in the Christmas narrative AND YET it is a chapter in the Christmas narrative. Because it is so sad and tragic, our tendency is to skip this part of the story. Understandably there is no song in the United Methodist Hymnal about the slaughter of these children.
The reason I have difficulty with glossing over this event is because it draws our attention to something crucial and important; it reminds us that Christmas is God’s response to the evil in the world. The baby born on that silent night was born for a reason, and we need this child in our lives because he has a lot to teach us between the night of his birth and the day that he was crucified.
The truth is that God comes to us at the worst times and places and in the most painful circumstances. That is when God comes to share our suffering, to stand by us in the midst of tragedy, to help us do what we have to do, accept what we have to accept and adjust where we have to adjust. Jesus came to remind us that we are not alone, that God is by our side and that there is a different way to live in the world and to relate to the world.
God took the form of a baby, and was born so that God could grow and live among us, and eventually grow up just like one of us and demonstrate and teach us about life. Jesus came to demonstrate faith, hope, love, peace, and ultimately the joy that comes from knowing and living the deeper truths of life. I am talking about the truths of knowing God who created the Universe and the world in which we live. I am talking about God who knows each of us and calls each of us by name. I am talking about Jesus who demonstrates by his life, his teachings, his death and resurrection that evil does not need to win or rule our lives. I am talking about Jesus who offers healing and redemption. I am talking about Jesus who promises, “I will walk with you always, I will never forsake you, I will be by your side, I am as close to you as you let me to be.”
As terrible as Herod was, Jesus came to redeem even Herod. Jesus came to redeem you and me, but it is up to each of us to make a first step towards God.