Manger Danger

I woke to the headline that a church in Massachusetts has added what many are touting as a “modern twist” to their nativity. In fact, their addition is actually quite spot-on to the historical birth of Jesus.

This church added lists of mass shootings to the walls behind Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, hoping to raise our consciousness about the irony of “Christmas peace.” I wonder if the architect of this tableau considered how true to life it is to consider the pain of mass murder at the birth of Jesus.

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

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. As recently as November, children were massacred as they worshiped in Sutherland Springs, TX. There is no lack of 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. There will be no more weeping, or mourning, and the only bloodbath will be the one prepared for unrepentant ones who thought that babies were fair play in this war and that swords and automatic weapons ruled the day.

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 death of the innocents.

And Jesus was acquainted with sorrow from birth and carried the burden of knowing that unnumbered children lost their lives even as His was protected, guided, 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. 

Jesus came to the real world. He didn’t bury His head or offer slogans or pablum; He offered His body, given for all of us. He faced death and arose from the grave the victor. He offered us the promise of an eternal future where love reigns if we hold on while all He longs to share it with us are brought into the family of God.

In your sorrow, your sadness, your grief, your anger, confusion, and your heart’s cry for justice, peace, and an end to suffering, know that you celebrate Him and honor Him, too, for He was a man of sorrows.

If your loved ones are sad at Christmas, weep with them, listen to their pain, and hold them close. Assure them that they, too, have the holiday spirit because Jesus also wept in this world. 

He holds our grieving hearts in His calloused, gentle, nail-scarred hands and whispers to us all, “Hold on, I’m coming.”

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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Words fail me, Lori. God has gifted you with a bold voice and an ear for the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Thank you for trudging through every head wind to carry His message.

  2. Janice says:

    Lori you are truly a gifted writer.
    Thank you for this

  3. Yes Lori, as you pointed out, violence followed Jesus from birth to death. Jesus said he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword. The sword of division between worldliness and righteousness. While Christmas cards and plays quote the angel’s words as “peace on earth” they are missing the context of the message which was God was sending peace between Himself and man through the birth of the Messiah, not political peace on earth. And yes, thankfully, when He comes back there will be true peace on earth.

  4. Jann Butts says:

    You’re right: there will not be true peace until Yeshua the Messiah returns to gather His children and cast satan into the lake of fire forever.

    We’re given God’s peace and joy through the Holy Spirit regardless of the circumstances surrounding us. Sometimes it’s difficult to hold on when situations are terrible. It feels as if nothing will ever be “good” again.

    I like what you wrote about Yeshua telling us to hold on, He’s coming. Hurry, hurry, hurry!

  5. Jan Clough says:

    Once again Lori you have touched my heart so profoundly.
    Having lost my son David in unexplained circumstances my great comfort was his salvation and my bitter relief, that he had not taken his own life or was murdered.
    We often skim over these bloody and tragic events, past and present, with fleeting sympathetic thoughts, sadly sometimes indifference. Maybe understandably more to the point of just not wanting to go there.
    We as Christians have a duty of care to try and give each tragic event heartfelt thought and prayer.
    You have reminded me not just of the pain l try to shut out but a reminder of ‘There but for the grace of God go l’.
    Thank you for reaffirming the heavy cost Jesus paid for us all, also our brothers and sisters throughout the world still paying the price for following Jesus. May we all find great comfort in our salvation Amen!

    Bless you Lori
    Jan Clough