This Christmas series is based on a quote by Frederick Buechner about the parable of the Good Samaritan:
Is the point of Jesus’ stories that they point to the truth about you and me and our stories? We are the ones who have been mugged, and we are also the ones who pass by pretending we didn’t notice. Hard as it is to believe, maybe every once in a while we are even the ones who pay an arm and a leg to help.
And perhaps sometimes we are the ones in the Christmas story. That’s what this series is about.
It’s not a nice feeling this Christmas to think we’re like Herod. Well, not if you know what he did.
Here are some things about him:
- Herod was Jewish
- He was King of Judea for 33 years
- He was ruthlessly protective of his position
When I say he was ruthlessly protective, I mean he stopped at nothing to preserve his position, killing proven dissenters, suspected dissenters, and even members of his own family. Herod killed his wife and brother-in-law.
He’s the natural enemy in the Christmas story.
But maybe we’re more like Herod than we care to admit. And maybe having a nice Christmas feeling isn’t all God wants to give us this year.
When the Magi (Wise Men) reported to Herod that the king of the Jews had been born, he sent them to Bethlehem to find the baby.
“As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” Yeah right Herod, you want to worship him. And you were so kind to your wife.
So the Magi followed the star until it stopped directly over the place where Jesus was. And they went in and brought gifts and worshipped Jesus.
But in a dream, God warned the Magi not to return to Herod, so they went a different way. Then an angel instructed Joseph to escape to Egypt, so during the night, he took Mary and Jesus and went to Egypt. What a good guy, dependable and strong, and listening to the angelic voice (now that’s a man).
When King Herod realized the Magi weren’t coming back, he ordered all boys in the area of Bethlehem who were two-and-a-half years and under to be killed.
You could say Herod was murderously protective of his position. Oh what sorrow in Bethlehem lay.
John 1:14 says the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. This was Herod seeking to silence the word of God, which challenged his position, his agenda, his very world.
It was the world of Herod vs. the word of God.
I wonder how often we do the same.
We don’t always welcome the word of God, do we?
Sometimes the word crashes into our world and we don’t know what to make of it. How will we make room for this word? How will we retain our position that we’ve fought so hard to attain? We see things our way and don’t want to see them God’s way, so we stomp and stamp and try to blot it out.
God says to hope when we want to sulk.
God says to believe when we want to see.
God says to love when we want to retreat.
Oh but God, you don’t understand. We don’t have room in our world for that. That’s not the way the world works. God, you’re not a man.
But on and on, God challenges our ambitions anyway. God’s word is like a splinter.
Other times the word whispers, stands at the door and waits to be invited in. But how long will this guest stay? What will the visit mean? Can we go on with life as usual? Usually, no.
The word comes as a stranger, although it’s a kinsman. And if we draw into it, this strange word that is shocking and disrupting and sometimes downright annoying, we hear God answer back: Yes, I am a man and I get it.
We may not kill like Herod, but we may ignore the word that is sent to us.
Like Herod, we each have a choice—stand your ground or bow to the word. I pray we bow. That’s how we’re like Herod.