A blog for Holy Innocents Day
The Nativity by Matthew – Part 6
The Nativity of Jesus is not easy to read. We celebrate God becoming human, and rightly so, and I hope what now three days after Christmas days that you are no longer feeling the after-effects of overeating or overdrinking.
But it is right to celebrate, even though the story is quite dark. Luke’s Gospel tells us that the town of Bethlehem was packed, yet none of these people attended the birth, instead just a small group of agricultural workers were the only ones to welcome God to Earth. It was not a good start. Later, up to two years later, some foreigners turned up bearing very costly gifts.
These foreigners, neither Jews nor following the Jewish religion, turned up where they expected a king to be born, at Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. The child, however, was a few miles further south, a small town. Herod, whom history does not paint as stable, reacted to what he saw as a threat to his title, or to his potential dynasty, and being a despot cted like despots do. The slaughter of innocent children in Bethlehem is not in any written history except the Bible, but Herod is acting in a way consistent with what the histories say about him.
Among our celebrations is this tale of a Bethlehem holocaust, innocent children murdered by an insecure dictator. The saddest part that history shows this is not a one-off event. Many rulers have murdered to keep their position, life for the poor and powerless can be bitter.
There are two examples of kingship on display here. That where power gives the right to abuse. The power to rule absolutely, and the kingship of God which is a rule of love, to rule by being a servant, not a dictator. That is God’s way, a way he recommends but does not force us to follow.
Let us remember those being persecuted today for their race, religion, sexuality or political persuasion. Father God, give them safety.
Those following the story can read it here:
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Matthew 2:16-18 ESVUK
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