Cruel Christmas

I don’t know what emotions fill your heart when you think about Christmas, but I hope that for most of you, Christmas is a holiday of joy filled with love, family warmth and blessings.

Every year we get together as a family and have special lunches and dinners, watch classic Christmas movies, give gifts to each other, tell different stories. We celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into this world for us.

Every year I thank God for the opportunity to forget about the problems and enjoy the time with my family during the holidays, but every year I remember that the first Christmas was not an occasion for rest or celebration at all. In fact, you can’t imagine a more disconcerting and horrifying situation than the time of Jesus’ birth.

Let’s read this story in Matthew 2:13-18:

After they left, the angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph and says: “Get up, take the child with the mother and run to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to find the child and kill him.” He got up, took the child with his mother and went to Egypt at night. There he remained until the death of Herod. This happened in order to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet: “From Egypt I called My Son.” When Herod saw that the astrologers had tricked him, he was furious. He ordered to kill in Bethlehem and its environs all boys under the age of two years, that is, born at the time that he learned about from astrologers. And so what was said through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A cry is heard in Ramah, sobs and groans. It is Rachel who mourns for her children and does not want to be comforted because they are no more.”

Cruel Christmas

If you grew up attending Sunday school and bible stories were a regular part of your life (thank God for that!), this story may seem ordinary and boring. But I’m all so hopeful that this never happens to you! I want to encourage you to revisit this horrific Christmas scenario, not to feel disgust or depression, but to expand the meaning of your celebration of the Nativity of Christ.

As you can see, Jesus was not born into a world of comfort and luxury. Of course, we all know this, but let’s think about what this story is: from the beginning to the end of His life, until His  violent, cruel, murderous death, Jesus was constantly persecuted. Perhaps not such a  calling would be desirable for some of us.

But the most beautiful thing about the story of Christmas is that the Son of God came to earth voluntarily. He came to a place where such unthinkable things as violence and injustice exist in the order of things. Voluntarily! Baby Jesus managed to escape Herod’s death sentence, but the king’s death sentence will eventually catch up with Him again. A cruel, bloody, terrible death awaits Him at the hands of wicked people.

So, as you sit around the holiday table and have fun with your loved ones around a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, don’t let yourself forget the horror and violence at the beginning and end of the Christmas story. The story begins with a terrible massacre of children and ends with the violent murder of the Son of God. The murder of children depicts how much the Earth needs grace and the murder of Christ is the moment when this grace is given to people.

Look into the manger with the baby, depicting the beginning of a new life, and try to see the One who came to die. Listen to the song of the angels and remind yourself that His death was the only way to give us peace. Look at your tree and think of another tree that was not adorned with glittering ornaments, but stained with the blood of God Himself.

Remember that the path to your celebration was the death of the One whose Birthday you are celebrating, and be especially grateful!

By Paul Tripp