The first Christmas led to terrrifying bloodshed. Jesus may have come to bring peace between God and man but Herod (the political King of the Jews) was so afraid of the idea of the Messiah, ‘the king of the Jews’ being born that ‘He gave orders for his men to kill all the boys who lived in or near Bethlehem and were two years old or younger’ (Matthew 2:16) in an attempt to kill Christ. Matthew quotes Jeremiah’s prophecy from the Old Testament foreseeing the mothers’ despair: “In Ramah a voice was heard crying and weeping loudly. Rachel was mourning for her children, and she refused to be comforted, because they were dead.” (Matthew 2:18). Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt until Herod died so the young Christ was in effect a political refugee.
Christ didn’t come as an earthly prince and live in a palace – famously Mary ‘laid him on a bed of hay because there was no room for them at the inn’ (Luke 2:7). Out of interest the stable, donkeys, sheep etc so beloved by children’s nativity plays (and department store windows) don’t feature in the biblical text. The three kings don’t either, although ‘wise men’ do. As Clint Archer points out, ‘We tolerate the poetic inaccuracy of “We three kings of Orient are” because it rolls off the tongue better than “We indeterminable number of Gentile scholars of Persia are.”’ What’s significant is that the wise men were invited to see Jesus ie he came for everyone, not just the Jews.
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