Less than a week ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus. We sang hymns that tell of news bringing joy to the world. We sang about mangers and angels and shepherds and Mary. Christmas comes with a great crescendo and then it is back to life as we know it. In a few days children return to school. After taking a couple days of vacation, it is back to work. Christmas with the baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by adoring parents, shepherds and docile animals is easily sentimentalized. We gladly take the comforting news of ‘God with us’ but we quickly ignore the challenge and judgment that ‘God with us’ entails. Matthew jolts us to reality with Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to seek refuge in Egypt. Matthew also described what happens when rulers feel threatened. In this case, the poor suffer and the innocent are killed. Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. The following Sunday is about the world with its Herods.
Magi had come to Herod to find the one born ‘King of the Jews.’ Herod and his grasp on power felt threatened. He wanted the Magi to return and give the location so he too could worship – Herod lied. The Magi didn’t return to give Herod what he wanted to learn. Thrown into a rage Herod ordered the massacre of Bethlehem’s children. Only Matthew records the history of this brutality but it was well within Herod’s normal behavior. Bethlehem was a small bump in the road town outside of Jerusalem. Such news wouldn’t have caused a stir in the region but it would have caused parents to fear a little more for their children’s well being.
The Christmas message is truly good news. Each Christmas we are reminded that in Jesus, the God of mercy and love has come to live with us. The Christmas message is also that in Jesus, God has entered this world with those forced to flee for refuge…under the lies and fear…in solidarity with the powerless often paying the price of the world’s brutality.
So celebrate the good news that is Christmas of ‘God with us.’ Also celebrate that God has come for those under the brutality of the world’s Herods. The world’s salvation has truly come, born to us.