The Darker Side to Christmas Matthew 2:13-23 by Revd. Christopher Blissard-Barnes

Matthew 2: 13-23. A well -known historian who did not believe in the Christian faith once said to a Bishop that people like Christmas because a baby threatens no one. ” The whole thing is a happy event which means nothing at all! “
However, in fact the birth of Jesus also brought considerable sadness when  King Herod, feeling threatened when the Wise Men enquired as to where  the King of the Jews had been born,( (Matthew 2;2)  ordered all the boys under 2 years in  Bethlehem to be killed. ( Matthew 2;16). In the midst of all the joy that Christmas brings it is good to pause and remember that there is a darker side to the narrative.  Those who speak truth to power or witness faithfully to Christ may put themselves or others in danger, as has happened down the ages and continues today, not least with the persecution of Christians still occurring in some parts of the world.  Despotic leaders like Herod often suffer from increasing paranoia. As Lord Acton famously said, ” Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely ” .
It is quite easy to overlook the darker side of the Christmas narrative.  It is possible to focus on 6 words beginning  with P – for example parties, presents, pantomimes , nativity plays , Christmas pudding, and the performance of lovely carols-  all part of the celebrations which we rightly  enjoy – and not think so much about the coming  of the Prince of Peace into the world and its’ immediate consequences.  Jesus came to make peace between God who is holy and we who fall short,  and peace between one another. In order to do that He died for our sins on the Cross before rising again on Easter Day.
Jesus was not born in a royal palace. There wasn’t even room for him in the Inn.  Jesus, who is ” Emmanuel, God with us “, came where the pain is in our world, and in  order to escape Herod’s wrath He, together with Joseph  and Mary, became refugees in Egypt. ( There are sadly, of course, many refugees today ).  They  did not return until God told Joseph in a dream to do so. ( Matt.2;20). Even then, they did not return to Judea since  Herod Archelaus, who had take over from his father, was a repressive ruler. So they went north to Galilee and settled in Nazareth.
So God delivered the Holy Family from danger just as He had delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt many centuries earlier, and later on from exile in Babylon. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that “Jesus was tempted, or tested,  in every respect as we are, and yet was without sin, so we can come to Him, receive mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” ( Heb. 4:16).
As we go into the New Year let us keep looking unto Jesus the ” pioneer and perfecter of our faith ” ( Heb.12;2) and remember that He has promised to be with us always, to the end of the age. ( Matthew 28: 20)
Matthew 2:13-23

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,

wailing and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children;

she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 2:13–23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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