There is a part of the Christmas story that I don’t recall seeing in many or even possibly any Nativity plays.
King Herod was far from happy that the Magi had arrived saying that there was a newly born King of the Jews and so he decided to eliminate the competition. He plotted to kill the child but when the Magi left without telling him where the child was, he really lost the plot.
Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. (Matthew 2.16)
This makes for difficult reading and is a reminder of the great evil that very sadly still exists in the world today.
Some people might ask where God was is in the midst of this great evil?
Matthew says that God foresaw this would happen and Jeremiah prophesied about it, but we also need to be clear that knowing something will happen is not the same as wanting it to happen.
God knew what would happen and he warned the Magi and Joseph about it. Did he also try to warn everyone else? Were those people not listening or did God not even try? We can’t possibly know the answer to these questions, but we do know that God created a world without suffering and pain and that one day he will make a new heaven and a new earth that will be the same.
Killing and conflict breaks the heart of God but for now he isn’t putting a stop to all of it. God wants us to freely choose him and that means that he doesn’t force people to behave in certain ways.
It’s no wonder people don’t include the slaughter of the baby boys in Nativity plays. After all, those plays are supposed to be nice, right?
Is it time to reject nativity niceness and to re inject reality into the Christmas story? In facing up to the darkness in the story, we allow it to remind us that we need to pray about the evil that is at work in the world today. As we face the reality of darkness, we need to ensure that we don’t become obsessed with or overwhelmed by it.
We need to keep looking to the light!
Jesus calls his followers ‘the light of the world’ and we need to pray and live in such a way that the light of Jesus that is in us will be seen by the people around us who are living in pain and without hope.
The darkness is a reality, so let’s not hide from it.
God’s light is a reality, but let’s remember that it is much greater than the darkness.
This is a part of a series of short thoughts for advent to help us to consider the events surrounding the birth of Jesus as we prepare ourselves for Christmas. You can look at the other advent reflections by clicking here.
You can read about these events in Matthew 2.