Manger Danger

Jesus would have stood out in his generation for a sad reason.

He would have been in a minority of young men his age because Herod tried to exterminate Him shortly after Jesus’ birth by ordering the execution of all males two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.

A slaughter. A bloodbath. The deaths of the innocents by a king worried that another threatened his throne.

Matthew 2 records the tragic subplot of the Christmas narrative this way: “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 2:16-28 (ESV)

She refused to be comforted because they are no more.

God sent His Son into a brutal world. A serrated edge sojourn in a hair-trigger land. That is the place where we still live.

In December 2012, the lives of twenty children and six adults ended in Newtown, CT, gunned down in their innocence. This December we’ve seen more innocents slaughtered across our nation and throughout the world, evidence that there is still a prince of this world worried that another is coming for his throne. Oh, He’s coming, all right. And when He comes, all things will be set right.

Don’t make the mistake of treating Jesus like a baby. He’s all grown up and ascended to His throne. When He returns, all things will be set to right.

There will be no more weeping or mourning. The only bloodbath will be the one prepared for those who thought that babies and bystanders were fair play in this war and that swords and automatic weapons ruled the day. And if they turn to Jesus, even these will be received with love. There is a day coming when love and peace will be the only law.

I wonder if Mary told her son about the slaughter surrounding His birth. How did they process that? How many mothers wept? How many fathers grieved? How many little girls grew up wondering why they were so many among so few because of the loss of the innocents?

Jesus was acquainted with sorrow from birth and carried the burden of knowing that unnumbered children lost their lives as His was protected, guided, and celebrated. The holidays are a complex emotional concoction of joy, nostalgia, hope, and sadness – especially when we’ve lost one we love.

Jesus knows.

Jesus knows.

Jesus knows.

In your sorrow, sadness, grief, or confusion, know that you celebrate Him and honor Him, too, in that. For He was a man of sorrows. He holds your heart in His calloused, gentle hands. Sorrow will have its season but joy will stretch into eternity. Know this.

This is the true joy of Christmas and the lasting triumph over evil. The kings of this world and those who wield weapons will not have the last word. Jesus. First, last, and forever.

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