“He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.” – Mt. 2:16
As I enjoyed Christmas with my family in Indiana this year, familiar sights, sounds and smells of the holidays filled the air as food was being prepared, presents were being wrapped, and my screaming nephews were running around the house. All the while, as is typical in my family, the TV was on in the background. It so happened a news program was on doing a retrospective of 2015 with all its good and bad news.
What struck me the most, perhaps because it was in stark contrast to this season of “peace and goodwill toward all”, were the striking images of death and violence that permeated the news this past year: innocent children slaughtered in their school rooms; innocent people beheaded on youtube; racial tensions leading to the murder of innocent citizens and policemen; young people killing themselves because of public shaming and bullying; terrorist attacks around the globe striking down innocent lives on purpose; and the refugee crisis symbolized by the lifeless body of innocent Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach.
All of this a sharp reminder that the crib leads to the cross! We live in a world where suffering is as real as it was when Jesus was born and people are still longing for something or someone to help make sense of their suffering and the real struggles and injustices they face. And what Herod and the infanticide story reveals is a God who’s love is so pure that he chooses to enter our world as it actually exists and not as the world we often wish it would be.
In our current socio-political climate, we simply can’t afford any more Christian sentimentality to mask the messiness of what it means to be human and rely on God’s providence. Sure, let’s keep “Christ in Christmas”, but maybe we also need to remember to keep “Herod in Christmas” as well because I don’t believe emotional idealism is the reason God chose to become a weak, defenseless baby, in need of our constant care and attention. God did not enter the world of our nostalgic silent-night, snow-blanketed, peace-on-earth, sugar cookie, suspended-reality of Christmas. God slipped into the vulnerability of mortal flesh and entered a world as violent and disturbing as our own to give meaning and provide hope amidst the difficult and messy realities of our lives. And we do this with an openness, tenderness, and fearlessness, to continue loving despite the darkness that surrounds us, with Jesus at our side.
How is God inviting you to move from “the crib to the cross” in your own spiritual journey? What real images/events from your own life this past year feel like “innocence lost” and you would rather avoid, but are being invited to face instead, with fearlessness?