13 When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” 14 Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.
16 When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. 17 This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet:
18 A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much grieving.
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she did not want to be comforted,
because they were no more.
This is the part of the Christmas story we don’t want to talk about.
It paints a picture of a king so desperate to hold on to power that he is willing to do everything – even slaughter children – to ensure that he remains on the throne. Though there’s no record of this horrific event outside the Bible, it’s not out of keeping with what we know about Herod the Great. Other sources corroborate the fact that he killed several of his own sons, so great was his fear of being unseated.
We also see in this story another truth about the Holy Family: they were refugees. They had to flee their homeland to seek refuge in Egypt. They relied on the kindness of strangers in a foreign country to keep them safe.
If Christmas is the most beautiful event in the history of the world, today’s reading is a reminder of all the ugliness that Jesus came to save us from. We see the sins of humanity on display: our fear, violence, and the lust for power that drives it all.
People will often look at the state of the world and use it to make the argument against faith. But we should not be surprised by the state of a world that continually fails to comprehend the gospel of peace. We are saved or condemned not by God, but by our own decision to reject and God’s gracious love toward us.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Every person of faith must wrestle with the question of evil’s ongoing impact on our world. What are some of the injustices that, when you see them, cause you to question God’s goodness?
How can we cooperate with God in creating a more just and peaceful world?