The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 12/22

Posted on | December 22, 2015 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 12/22

scripture reading: Matthew 10:34–39

Let’s Put Herod Back in Christmas

Then Herod . . . became furious, and sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:16)

How Jesus’ birthday became a winter festival honoring Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty is a story that baffles the imagination. But before we shout, “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas!” let’s look at another character we tend to leave out of the original story: King Herod.

I have never seen a Christmas card depicting Herod or the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem. And yet Herod is just as much a part of the story as Joseph, the magi, or the shepherds. If we leave him out, we change the meaning of the story. Far worse than the fictional Grinch, Herod is a real villain who inflicted real cruelty on real people. If we leave him out of the story, we may forget that Jesus was a real Savior, who came to bring real salvation to real people! So I, for one, want to yell, “Let’s put Herod back in Christmas!”

Appointed to his position by the Roman Senate, Herod ruled over Judea by sitting on the throne that had once belonged to King David. His name is synonymous with ruthless policies and murderous cruelty. The decision to massacre baby boys in Bethlehem was consistent with other brutal decisions he made, such as murdering his wife, three sons, a mother-in-law, a brother-in-law, and many others.

Herod’s presence strikes a discordant tone in an otherwise peaceful Christmas story. The thought of screaming mothers and babies skewered on Roman spears

. . . well, it tends to dampen the holiday spirit. Most of us would prefer a more sanitized version of the Christmas story where all is calm, all is bright. We’d rather forget about Herod and his henchmen and get back to our mistletoe and figgy pudding.

But Jesus came into a real world marked by real evil and real suffering. Violence, injustice, oppression and pain characterized daily life then even as it does today. If we leave Herod out of the story, we miss the whole point of why Jesus came! A sentimental Christmas purged of all evil may play well in pop culture, but it tends to insulate us from God’s real purpose in redemption. If you sanitize Christmas you may miss the very reason that God sent his Son into our broken world.

In his book God Came Near (1987), Max Lucado helps us to better understand the realities of the messy world into which Jesus was born.

To think of Jesus in such a light is—well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it? It’s not something we like to do; it’s uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer. He’s easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable. But don’t do it. For heaven’s sake, don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.

 

 

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. —Martin Luther King

 

 

point to ponder The coming of Jesus divides the world into two groups: those who love him and those who hate him.

 

prayer focus Those persecuted for Christ’s sake.

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