Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Dark Side of Christmas

We like to think of Christmas as a lovely story, with the birth of the Christ-child bringing peace, hope and joy to the earth. Yet as we read the Scripture accounts, we find the darker side of Christmas. Alongside the angels singing and shepherds worshipping and magi journeying, there is the pain of child slaughter.

When the wise men came to Palestine, they went to the royal palace in Jerusalem. After all, that's where you would expect to find the new born king of the Jews. Herod asked them to come back and tell him where the baby was, so that he could go and worship as well. Yet the wise men were very wise, and obeyed the message in a dream to return to their country by another route.

As you can imagine, Herod was ticked off when he realised he had been tricked. So he sends his soldiers to eliminate the rival contender to his throne - the true King of Israel. Just to make sure, he orders that all the male children of 2 years and under be killed. While Herod wanted to get rid of his rival, Satan also sought to destroy the Christ-child at the beginning of his life, before he could die on the cross.

Jesus was saved - an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph and told him to take his family to Egypt for safety. Yet the other children in Bethlehem were killed. The pain of Rachel mourning for her children, as Matthew remarks (Matt 2:18). These 'Holy Innocents' as some call them give us a hint of the pain of the dark side of Christmas. May we never forget those who hurt at this festive season.

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