All Is Calm
Back in 1966 Simon and Garfunkel had Charlie O’Donnell use his disc jockey voice to impersonate a newscaster reading the actual headlines for August 3, 1966. As the classic folk rock duo sang Silent Night, the newscaster’s voice got louder and louder until it completely drowned out the sounds of “all is calm, all is bright.”
Actually, Simon and Garfunkel were on to something, and their insight is still true. The hard facts of the real world do destroy our sentimental Hallmark visions of peace on earth, goodwill toward men, but do those facts destroy the actual Christmas story told in the tax collector’s account in the New Testament?
Before we allow more nuclear threats or news of more rogue terrorist violence to cause us to put away our hope for peace on earth with our Christmas decorations, we need to keep tracking what Matthew has to say about events after the birth of Jesus. Things were far from calm and bright in 4/5 BC when Jesus was born. A defensive paranoid king was on the prowl to murder the newborn King. Here’s a little history:
Herod the Great, one of the villains in the Tax Collector’s Christmas Story, supported Mark Antony and Cleopatra against Octavius in the battle for Egypt. Octavius won and the shrewd Herod got in his boat and made a quick trip to Rome where he swore allegiance to Octavius, the new Emperor. Instead of losing his life, Herod, was re-appointed the King of Israel.
Herod quickly pacified the country, built monuments to his greatness, and ruthlessly destroyed any who opposed. Matthew gives us the final period of this tyrant’s life and his attempt to murder the Bethlehem toddler (Matthew 2:1). When wise men from the East suddenly arrived in Jerusalem asking, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2), you already know how he responded.
Rather than simply moving on from the Christmas story now that December 25th is behind us, we’re going to keep tracking Matthew’s text for the next week before returning to Acts.
Matthew’s not the author who tells us about the manger, the angels, and the shepherds. Instead he focuses on wise men from the East, Herod, and chief priests and scribes. How will these characters in the story respond? How will we respond now that we are beginning to settle back into our routine?
Lord, thank you that you sent your Son into a real world filled with real villains and threats. As we see how your Son was treated after his birth in Bethlehem, help us make serious decisions about how we will respond to him as we close 2017 and begin 2018.
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