>> Tuesday, December 21, 2010
"The rulers of this world are seldom friendly to the cause of God.”
J. C. Ryle
J. C. Ryle
I was planning to write a simple Christmas greeting to my blogger friends. Then I came across this story, a story we forget in the middle of all the joy of Christmas. This was part of a sermon from the Keep Believing Ministries.
" This is the story of the man who tried to kill Christmas. It is strange and bizarre and doesn’t seem like it should be in the Bible. It doesn’t seem like we should read it during the Christmas season. It doesn’t sound right amid all the Christmas carols. It doesn’t look right surrounded by sparkling lights and candy canes. It takes all the joy away and leaves only sadness.
No, this is a story we would just as soon forget. It’s a story about the boys of Bethlehem. It’s a story about murder in the manger. History has labeled this event the Slaughter of the Innocents. It’s part of the Christmas story, tucked away toward the end of Matthew.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:16-18) "
This is part of the scandal of Christmas. Whenever choirs do Christmas concerts, they don’t sing about this part of the story. No Christmas carols mention this tragic event. Yet it happened one night in Bethlehem. What Herod did to those baby boys is just as real as Mary giving birth to Jesus.Mary rejoicing, Rachel weeping. Christmas joy, Christmas tears—all wrapped up together.
Why is this shocking story recorded in the Bible? It must be true because the Bible records it as a sober historical fact, and it must be important or Matthew wouldn’t have mentioned, and that means there must be something here we need to think about. There are times in the Bible when you read something and it is so amazing or so unexpected or in this case so heartbreakingly cruel you ought to stop and ask, “What’s going on here?”
As we look at these verses we are struck with an enormous sense of evil. In fact it’s hard to find the right words to describe the act— barbaric, despicable, hideous, inhuman, and unspeakably cruel. It is an act worthy of Stalin, Hitler or Saddam Hussein .
A few years ago I had seen a column about an event that took place when the Nazi Adolph Eichmann—who helped plan the systematic destruction of millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust—was put on trial in Israel. A Jewish man by the name of Yehiel Dinur had survived the concentration camps and had testified against Eichmann (when he was tried in absentia) at the Nuremburg trials after World War II. Years later the Israeli Special Forces captured Eichmann in a daring raid in Argentina returned him to Israel to stand trial for his crimes. Dinur attended the 1961 trial as a witness. When he saw Eichmann in the courtroom Dinur began to sob uncontrollably. Soon he fainted and fell to the floor. Why? Was it hatred? Fear? Horrid memories? Speaking in an interview on a TV show sometime later, Dinur explained that during the war he had feared Eichmann because he saw him as someone fundamentally different than he was. But now, seeing him stripped of all his Nazi glory, Dinur saw Eichmann for what he really was—just an ordinary man. “I was afraid about myself,” Dinur explained, “I saw that I am capable to do this. I am … exactly like he.” That is why he collapsed on the floor !
The truth can be summarized in six terrifying words: “Eichmann is in all of us.”
This is in fact the central truth about human nature. Sin is in us—not just the temptation to sin, not just the propensity to sin, but sin itself dwells in us. We don’t like to hear this truth, which is why we don’t like to think about stories like the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem. They force us to confront the truth about who we really are.
Christmas is a time for all to share and care. So let's not remain confined to our petty selves. Let us welcome with outstretched arms those unfortunate ones who have no one to fall back upon. Christmas is a good time; a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women can open their hearts freely, forget the past , forgive each other and welcome the New Year with peaceful hearts.
Wishing you all the timeless treasures of Christmas…the warmth of home, the love of family and the company of good friends. Have a blessed Christmas!