Words for the first Sunday of Christmas – Adel Parish Church
Isaiah 63: 7 – 9; Hebrews 2: 10 – end; Matthew 2: 13 – end
I know, I’m the baddie; the ‘evil fairy’ at your nativity cradle; Killer, no slaughterer, of innocents. But you forget – I’m also known as ‘Herod the Great’…’the Great’ I didn’t get that title by being weak and indecisive.
You conveniently forget the peace I secured for the Jews under Roman occupation; my long reign; the magnificent Temple I built. You only remember my story because of the visit of those three travellers from the East…
And even then you don’t read it properly…’when King Herod heard the kings were searching for a baby, born king of the Jews – he was frightened’…frightened – that’s not how you picture the scheming villain in your nativity plays.
But you’ve never been the ruler of an unruly people occupied by a ruthless nation. Fear? Yes – every day.
Fear of those around me hungry for power and anxious to take my place…why do you think I had secret police listening all the time?
Fear of those who would upset the status quo – the delicate balancing trick I was playing to keep Romans, pagans and Jews happy. There were always false prophets, messiahs threatening to ruin things…’he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him’…you never remember that bit do you? It’s a lonely and frightening place – being a ruler.
So yes, they did scare me – those strange, intense travellers from the East, with their tales of a new King of the Jews – a baby worth a thousand mile journey – a baby they would bow before. All Jerusalem was unnerved – but I was the ruler, so it was up to me to act…
…and I made a mistake. I trusted that my welcome and my flattery had worked…I trusted that as I’d shared my knowledge, those travellers would do the same. I trusted they would lead me to this ‘king’ so that I could deal with the problem.
I should have recognised in their single-mindedness, their intensity of purpose, that this baby, in Bethlehem of all places, had already won their allegiance. So then what choice did I have? The gnawing fear wouldn’t go away. Fear that a baby who could draw noblemen from the ends of the earth would easily deceive the common people around him, the poor, the dissatisfied.
I had made the mistake, so I had to act. The lives of a few ordinary children? – hardly a great price for peace and stability. Many wouldn’t have lived to adulthood anyway – life is cheap in these places. If you haven’t had the responsibility of real power you don’t know the loneliness and fear that goes with it.
And anyway, before you jump to judgement – how do you feel when you think power is being taken from you? Do you fear change? – anything that threatens the status quo, the little kingdoms you’ve built? Do you slaughter infant plans and ideas – just in case? Just in case they grow into something you didn’t expect, something that forces you into the background?