“After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.””
A drawn sword.
Not exactly a symbol of Christmas, is it?
I mean, I may not be a noticer, but swords and weapons don’t seem very popular this time of year. You don’t exactly see people lined up to add more swords and clubs to their Christmas decor.
And yet, they are just as legitimately a part of the original Christmas story as angels are.
Welcome to the part of the nativity that no one talks about.
The evil part.
The baby has been swaddled and placed in a manger. The angels have come and gone, having shared their good news. The shepherds are back in the fields, swapping memories of that amazing night a few years back when their lives had been turned upside down by that wee baby’s birth announcement.
The wisemen, having traveled found the promised King as a toddler (yes, we have to factor in travel time in the day of camel caravans!) have returned to wherever wisemen hang out when they are busy becoming wise.
But King Herod has just put his plans in motion – plans that include soldiers and swords and clubs and the brutal murder of babies.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Enter the killjoy.
Evil. It lurks everywhere – in dark alleys. In peace talks. In state rooms and presidential meetings and primal emotions expressed by powerful men desperate to keep their power.
But it especially shows up wherever Good News is declared.
Ever noticed that?
For every act of selfless courage, every just law passed, every inroad into equality that is made, there is an equal and opposite reaction – a pushback of evil, poised to undo anything beautiful and innocent and good.
So into the Christmas story, a tale of incredible selflessness and kindness and love, it makes perfect sense that senseless hatred would rear its ugly head.
Enter the drawn sword.
Herod, hearing from the wisemen that a new king had been born, fakes delight to their faces while behind their backs sending out his hired thugs to kill any male child in the whole area of Bethlehem two years and under to ensure that his own throne would be safe from this upstart king.
I can’t even fathom such a vile act.
Talk about the original Scrooge, trying to kill Christmas.
And again, in this unexpected and shocking detail in the narrative surrounding the birth of Jesus, don’t miss the point.
Are you trying to do what is right?
Are you living out of a generous, kind, and loving intent? Are you seeking to serve your God by making choices that will honour His compassion, grace, and purity?
Enter the killjoy…
If wee infant Jesus didn’t escape the pushback, how will you?
In other words, why are we constantly surprised when doing the right thing gets hard?
In fact, perhaps it’s time to see this struggle as a blessing in disguise, a sign that you are on the right track.
Because the next part of the story shows just how protective Father God can be. He sends another angel to warn Joseph of the evil plot twist and whisk the child away in the nick of time.
See, what He plans to accomplish won’t be railroaded. It can’t be killed. No sword can slash through it. No evil can bury it.
God is busy weaving me – you – right into His story of redemption. Your story, like the story of Jesus’ birth, will have unexpected plot twists and dramatic shifts in perspective and yes, evil will try to shut it down.
It won’t be easy.
But it will be beautiful…
Hold tightly to that promise with me?
Father, evil is so discouraging. It often looks as though it is winning! Remind our hearts through this hard part of the Christmas story that You are always at work to fight evil and protect the Good News that was announced that first Christmas. Amen.