Read Matthew 2:1-18.
A time for remembering
Perhaps more than any other time of year, Christmas is a time for remembering. Not only can we enjoy our own family memories and traditions, but we can look back reverently, across the centuries, to a stable in Bethlehem. We remember the precious, much anticipated, child who was born there. A child destined to change the course of history.
Being taken to see traditional Christmas pantomimes is very much a part of my own Christmas memories. Naturally, the plots always featured ‘a baddie’ and the audience would delight in hissing at them when they came on stage.
Unlike a Pantomime, the much loved and enacted Nativity is no made up story. However, the King of Glory could not be born into the world without opposition. It came in the person of Herod.
Enter the King of Judea
Luke 1:5 records the events took place “in the days of Herod, King of Judea”. This unlikely and unlikeable person is a pivotal character in the Christmas Story. He was a descendant of Esau and not a Jew by birth, but his family had converted to Judaism. Herod was a master politician. After the death of his father, he secured permission from the Romans to take over as ruler of Judea and was given the title “King of Judea”. He ruthlessly held onto power for around 40 years. His cruelty, even to his own family is well documented. A most unpleasant character!
Opposition to the King of Glory
Herod next appears in the story when the Wise Men arrive at his court in Jerusalem. Innocently they seek his help to find “the one who has been born King of the Jews” because they hope to worship Him. Herod, the current Jewish king, immediately feels threatened by this disturbing news. And like any crafty pantomime villain, he feigns interest, asking them to return when they have found the child, declaring his false desire to also worship the new king.
Warned in a dream, the Wise Men never return. In a furious rage, Herod attempts to eliminate the threat to his throne by having all the boys in Bethlehem under two murdered.
This part of the Christmas Story is gruesome and distressing. However, it reminds us that Jesus gave up His place in glory to become a man, out of love for a world that didn’t want Him. Whenever we step out to follow Jesus, there will be opposition. But we can be encouraged that even Herod, powerful and ruthless as he was, could not thwart the purposes of God.
As we look around at the poverty and need in the world, rather than being overwhelmed, we can hope and rejoice in the sure knowledge that Jesus is Lord! Remember this Christmas that His love is unchanging. Take heart! Evil will never overcome His Kingdom because Jesus defeated it on the Cross.
Jesus, thank you for choosing to give up your place in glory out of love for me. Father, thank you for the incredible gift of grace won for me at an unimaginable price. As I reflect on the story of Herod today, I am encouraged that nothing and no one can thwart your purposes. Reveal Your will to me afresh this Christmas.