When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem, who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Matthew 2:16 (NRSV)
The angels announced news of great joy to the shepherds … for unto them had been born that day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. The shepherds heeded the angels’ message, went to Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph and the Child lying in a manger. The shepherds adored the Child and then joyfully went on their way praising and thanking God for all they had heard and seen. Sometime later Wise Men arrive and find the Child and his mother, now residing in a house. They, too, worship Him and present their precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Rather than returning to Jerusalem and reporting to Herod their discovery, the Wise Men, warned in a dream, return to their own country by another road. On the heels of the wonderful story of Christmas with all of its joy, we read this tale of weeping and wailing found in the Gospel of Matthew alone.
It is a sad chapter to what otherwise has been a joy-filled story. Herod’s marauding soldiers sweep through Bethlehem and its environs slaying innocent children two years old and under, leaving behind them a bloody trail and inconsolable grieving parents. The Christmas Story, which tells our redemption and consequent recreation, like the goodness of the Creation Story, repeats the same pattern of good being followed with evil. In Genesis, we have the serpent’s temptation of Eve resulting in the Fall and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Here we have an evil Herod determined to protect his own interests at the great cost of ordering the murder of innocent children resulting in cries of great grief resounding throughout the land. We do take heart knowing that the Christmas Story and the Easter Story have announced good news of great joy … for to us has been born a Savior and this Savior, by His resurrection from the dead, has defeated the powers of sin and death.
Yes, for all the wonderful stories of love and caring that we hear at Christmastime, we also acknowledge that there are tragic stories of greed and violence. For all the stories at Christmastime of happiness and joy, there are still stories of grief and sorrows. The Great News is that because of what happened on Christmas and Easter Days, a day is surely coming when there will be no more death, and no more mourning and crying and pain. Praise the Lord!
Thank you, Lord, for the great joy we have at Christmas and in knowing that a time is surely coming when there will be no more death, mourning, crying and pain. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.