Slideshow image

We normally hear, "Let's put Christ back into Christmas."

But Herod?

Some time ago I read J. Richard Middleton's article, "Let's Put Herod back into Christmas." We'll come to his article in a moment.

I think he's right.

An advent meditation 

Matthew 2 is one of those parts of the Bible you should read during the Christmas season. 

The chapter is full of traditional Christmas images:

  • the birth in Bethlehem – an ancient prophecy fulfilled;
  • the 'star' that guided the way – present, yet puzzling; and,
  • the wise men, or magi, giving gifts to the child, Jesus.

These are familiar scenes in most Christmas presentations.

Read beyond Matthew 2:15 and you're in for a shock. That is not suitable material for sanitized sermons and Sunday School plays. 

In many ways, our sanitized versions of "Christmas" separate us from the realities of Jesus and the circumstances of his conception and birth.

An advent shock

Here's Matthew 2:16

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. 

Herod's fury exploded as an indiscriminate murder of infants.

Look at the image (above) of a mother attempting to protect her child. What feelings are evoked? 

What have we done with Christmas?

An advent reality

If Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, we need a renewed dose of reality.

Our cultures have redefined Christmas. It has been flattened, sanitized, commercialized, and distorted.

In the same way that colorful eggs and fluffy bunnies are allowed to hijack the celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead at Easter; evergreen trees and a jolly overweight guy in a red suit are superimposed over the event of Jesus being born.

The reality is that Jesus was a vulnerable infant in the harsh environment of 1st Century Palestine during the iron rule of Imperial Rome. 

It is this reality that connects us with the world in which most live – whether it is the reality of unemployment and homelessness in our cities, hunger in Africa, or hate in Syria and elsewhere. 

An advent reading

I encourage you to read Middleton's excellent, short article. It calls us back to reality and is a necessary corrective to our sanitized versions of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

With the kind permission of Dr. Middleton, read his excellent short message by clicking here: "Let’s Put Herod back into Christmas."

How does the harsh reality of Matthew’s record re-connect us to the real world, real people – and the real Jesus?

After you’ve read it, let me know what you think.                        


Click here to listen to this as a podcast

BACK TO Why shepherds at Bethlehem?                      

Photo credit: jean louis mazieres via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Click "yes" to receive resource-rich newsletters.

Helpful resources provided to 'living theology' subscribers.