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A Joyful Christmas?

Matthew 2:1-3 

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"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, [2] 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.' [3] And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."
 

Matthew 2:7-8 

"Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. [8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, 'Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him.'" 

This year, while mourning the loss of loved ones and with the events of 9-11 fresh in my mind, Christmas seemed different. Personally, I needed the season for my own emotional well-being. I found the music and customs of the season comforting and welcome. It was good to remember the words of the angel, "behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;" (Luke 2:10 NASB)

It is joyful news to the shepherds, and it was joyful news to you & me, but it wasn't joyful news to King Herod.

Herod was a man of contradictions. He could be both generous and cruel. During economic downturns, he would ease the tax burden on the people. In BC 25, he melted down some of his own gold to buy food for his starving subjects.

But he could also be cruel. Especially when he became insecure because of a potential challenge to his throne. Among those he killed because of his insecurity was his wife, his mother-in-law, and three of his sons. The Roman Emperor Augustus said, "it was safer to be Herod's pig than Herod's son."

Sometimes his cruelty couldn't be explained by his insecurity. When he was in his seventies, he knew that he would soon die, so he ordered his men to imprison the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem so that when he died they could be executed. He knew that no one would mourn his death, but by killing good men, he knew there would be mourning at his death. (Barclay, vol. 1, p. 20-21)

Herod's reaction to the news that "The King of the Jews" was born, is predictable, though not understandable. When his insecurity kicked in, he had a knee-jerk reaction and ordered the eradication of all male children.

The killing was senseless. The killings terrorized the people. During the last time this sort of killing of innocent children happened, the deliverer Moses arose to deliver the people from the tyranny of Pharaoh.
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