In Christmas displays across the country, the meek and mild baby Jesus appears alongside his beleaguered parents with angels singing, shepherds adoring and cows lowing. The picture is clear, and the weather is cold but tolerable. All is calm. All is bright.
Off to the side, however, if we are to read the Gospels rightly, all is not calm.
Herod is amassing an imperial force to slaughter thousands of children. Astrologers from beyond Israel are approaching the manger to offer their adoration. Very soon, the young family will leave under threat of their life and flee to Egypt as mothers across Bethlehem wail in anguish as their children are murdered.
This is the full Christmas story.
This is the story of God’s coming into the world. There is a real violence to the Christmas story.
It is not a violence of families dredging up old grudges or of bitter losses felt more acutely at the holiday time. It is the violence that comes whenever the kingdom of God is made known and when that which is opposed to God’s presence feels threatened. It is the violence that rises up in indignation, for it knows—in the words of Mary—the day is coming when the rich will be sent away hungry. It is the violence that supports power, secures greed, hides vice and protects dark secrets.
For with the coming of Christ, the days of Herod are numbered, and the kingdom of God is at hand.
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Source: Baptist Standard