Why Did Herod Miss Christmas?

Dr. Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,
How could Herod miss Christmas? How could he hear the Wise Men coming so far to find this baby and not recognize the signs? I don't want to be like him. How can I honor Jesus this Christmas?

Dear Stephanie,
If we are not careful, we can go through the entire Christmas season and miss Christmas. It happens to people all the time. I want us to get Christmas right as we go through the holiday season. We don’t want to be like Herod. 

Matthew 2:1-3: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Zoroastrians were the King Makers of the ancient world. This is a big deal—especially to Herod who is the King of the Jews. Herod was not really a Jew. Dad, not mom was a Jew. He was an army general who made friends in Rome. He rose to power as a tetrarch, a petty king because of delivering land and taxes to Rome.

Herod hobnobbed with the rich and famous. In a civil war between Caesar and Pompey, he chose the right side. The right side was with Mark Anthony against Brutus and Cassius—Fortress of Antonio ruins—where Pilate interviewed Jesus. The wrong side with Mark Anthony and Cleopatra versus Octavian—Caesar Augustus.

Herod killed his own sons in a plot to give power to Augustus: “I would rather be Herod’s hus (pig) than his huis (son).” There is no doubt what he intends to do with a rival.

Matthew 2:4-6: “When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

Matthew 2:7-9: “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.”

This was a rather unusual star. It was a confluence of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus in 7 B.C. Jesus was born seven years Before Christ (B.C.). The calendar was messed up. King Herod died in 4 B.C., so Jesus had to be born before that. The Scripture says that the Star moved—perhaps it was a specially designed light just for the occasion. 

Matthew 2:10-12: “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” 

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.”

Jesus, at this time, was not in the manger—note the previous verse, now living in a house. Perhaps a year or two after the birth—that is why Herod said to kill all babies 2 years or younger. It is time to be celebrating the baby—and Herod is killing babies. 

King Herod missed the peace, love, and joy of Christmas. 

He was known as Herod the Great. He built monumental building projects to make people love him: Herod’s Temple in Jesus’ time was glorious. But he lived as a terrified man. Herod was instructed and told about Messiah—but he missed it all. He was afraid of the Savior—he had no idea what it was all about. Herod died a miserable man with a miserable death—His symptoms recorded for posterity. Herod had misplaced hope: politics, materialism, sensual things, building projects—all hopeless endeavors. We put our hope in cars, savings accounts, houses, presents, jobs. This is a recipe for hopelessness. 

That is how we miss Christmas. 

Don’t place your hope for a successful Christmas with money and presents. How quickly the toys grow old! You want something that will last. 

Luke 2:13-14: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.’”

Ah, that’s what Christmas is all about. 

Why is Christmas so important?

Because the world did not become a place of peace, love, and joy at His first coming. 

The four candles of Advent represent:

1. Hope

2. Peace

3. Joy

4. Love 

We live too much in a world of war—not peace. We live too much in a world of misery—not joy. We see devastation, mass murders, and starvation. We live too much in a world of hatred—not love. 

However in the heart of all men and women is something better. We long for a better world. While the promises of the First Coming will be fulfilled at the Second Coming, deep down inside we long for our world to be a better one right now.

This is the meaning of Christmas.


Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

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