I’ve only made passing references to it earlier, but when Jesus was born as the Jews’ Messiah, he was born as ‘King of the Jews’. That’s because Messiah literally means ‘anointed one’ in Hebrew; aka soon to rule in the future.
This is all well and good if you’re a Jew and have been waiting for a Messiah to show up. However, this is not all well and good if you are currently on the throne.
Enter Herod the Great (as previously mentioned in several posts). Herod gets the tip off from the Magi that there’s a new royal kid in town:
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him.
That’s not a happy face emoji.
So Herod asks for some details on the timing of the birth and tells the Magi to go and find the child. Then they are to report back to Herod, so that, in his words:
“I too may go and worship him”
Sounds plausible, but it’s a blatant lie.
The Magi are warned in a dream to avoid Herod after finding Jesus and they take the scenic route back to their homeland (presumably Babylon) and avoid his palace. Then Herod basically has a tyrannical toddler tantrum:
When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and 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 learning from the Magi.
Mass infanticide in the ancient world. It’s horrific.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”
Are you angels sure about that?
Imagine being a mother, first time or twenty-first time (it’s the ancient world) and having your son stolen from you and slaughtered, possibly in front of your own eyes. It makes you want to vomit.
That’s what the arrival of the Christ caused. It doesn’t look like joy to the world at all.
I haven’t mentioned HNAC Alison much this December because I find it hard to think from that perspective when considering Christmas. However, I know what she’d think now.
She’d think that this mass slaughter was just another reason why Christianity was a terrible thing and should be avoided.
My answer to that, however, is that God wasn’t the one killing all the babies. It was an evil (and maniacal) ancient world ruler.
God brings joy in a little boy. Herod says destroy.
Herod fought against what God was doing and it had dire consequences for so many. The gift of peace was on offer but Herod walked away from it. Herod wanted war instead.
But Herod didn’t win the war because Jesus’ peace is still available (more on this tomorrow). And that’s why, despite the massacre, we can still sing:
Joy to the world the Lord is come. Let Earth receive her King.
It’s up to us to choose whether we will receive him; or whether, like Herod, we will wage war with this baby King.
Yours in peace,