Christmas is a most wonderful time of the year. Decorations, parties, feasts, presents, family and friends fill the days. Then again, we miss our departed loved ones, struggle to give nice things when finances are tight, and wrestle with many other difficulties, too.
Nice things do not make Christmastime wonderful – the birth of the Son of God makes it so. God the Father so loved his people that he sent his only Son to come down from heaven and become one of them. As one of us, Jesus the Son of God bore the brunt of life’s tragedies, sin and death. That little baby in the manger grew to be the man who rose from the grave, saved us from our sins and brought us to everlasting life.
The Virgin Mary bore the King of Israel in Bethlehem. But he was not to be an earthly king like David and Solomon before him. Christ was to be a different kind of king.
King Herod did not know this. Herod was not a just king; he was a king who relished his own power. A puppet of the Roman conquerors, he was allowed power and a court so long as he kept the peace and helped enforce their laws.
The Jews of Judea no longer ruled themselves. They had to tolerate any number of vile atrocities. One of them was the presence of Herod. And Herod was to make things worse.
The three magi from the East told him of the birth of a new king of Israel. Herod feared for his crown and instructed them to come back to tell him about this new king. But after worshipping Jesus, the wise men did not return to Herod. Furious at their betrayal, what was Herod to do?
He committed an atrocity that makes the work of the Romans seem mild. He ordered the execution of all male children under 2 years of age from the area around Bethlehem. Since he did not know which child was born king, he had them all killed. Herod killed all these innocent little children to protect his power and status.
Throughout history, powerful people have killed powerless innocents so that they could maintain their might and status. We mostly see this in genocide, the killing off of one people to replace them with another people. But Herod killed off his own people, the children of his fellow Jews, in order to maintain his personal status among the Jews.
We see something similar to this today. In modern America we kill off many millions of the innocent of our own blood in order to maintain our personal power and status. A quarter of the most innocent human beings, fetuses within the womb, have been killed over the past 40 years. Two generations have been born with only three-quarters of their number so that their parents would not have to raise them, so that their own flesh and blood would be free to do what they wanted without responsibility.
This Christmas season, let us say “amen” to the wonderful loving action of our good God, who sent his only Son to love us, teach us, and sacrifice himself for us. Let us all love one another with openness and self-sacrifice – especially those who are too small and helpless to look after themselves.
THE REV. JEFFERSON OTWELL IS THE RECTOR OF ST. LUKE ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.