While King Herod seemed somewhat familiar with Bible prophecies related to the coming of the Messiah, he was not at all familiar with God who inspired these prophecies – and here is where the story turns tragic: With feigned interest King Herod approached the spiritual leadership of his time to investigate the details surrounding the birth of the Messiah. He didn’t ask questions to satisfy his curiosity but to come up with an evil scheme, convinced that he could actually outwit God. History, however, proved King Herod wrong. At the end of the day he didn’t kill Mary’s baby. And in his insane attempt to kill the Messiah, countless mothers were bereaved of their little children. Heartbroken collective grief was wailing in the streets of Bethlehem. About this horrific event Matthew wrote in his gospel (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.”
Why was the most wondrous thing the world has ever seen, the birth of the Messiah, followed by such horror? There is no easy answer to this question. If anything, the two contrasting events reveal all the more how badly this broken world needs a Savior.
Isn’t this the old familiar tension we have dealt with throughout our lifetime? We celebrate the beauty of Christmas while brutality assails this planet in countless wars, while in poverty-stricken areas of this world children are sold into prostitution, while God’s creation is subjected to torture and terror, while human dignity is blatantly disregarded, or, on a more personal level, while struggling with an untimely death of a loved one. This tension we experience is called faith. In Henry Longfellow’s song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” we read:
“Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men! Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep’”
We have to trust God’s timing. God is not dead, nor aloof and unconcerned. He has been deeply involved in the fabric of human society when He turned a member of the Trinity over to us, and God’s Son became a human being. How much closer can God get into man’s business? Jesus, the Son of God became man to come alongside us and carry our burdens. Traveling through Israel with His disciples, Jesus compassionately reached out to the people around Him and said (Matthew 11:28):
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
2000 years later these words still ring true and resonate with generations of believers. Jesus, who literally walked in our shoes and after His death and resurrection, returned to heaven, is now a member of the Trinity who can uniquely relate to us. Jesus is God’s gift to the world; He came to save us. It takes, however, two to save: God and you. God’s deal is to provide the help we need; yours and mine is to believe. Believing we will still go through many tough times, but we will experience God’s peace on the way.
May we believe with the angels when we join in their famous chorus on Christmas (Luke 2:14) and sing:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”!