From Glory to Horror to Hope

Matthew 2:13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
    wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

So strange—at this point in the Christmas story, we’ve heard of angelic announcements and a virgin birth, events so miraculous they’re highlighted in the night sky, drawing wise men from distant lands. And then this horror happens.

As terrible as the slaughter of these innocent children is to contemplate, perhaps the account does help us process the horrors we have seen. It’s not unusual for people to ask, “How can God let such things happen?”

Well … evil remains in the world, doesn’t it? Satan and all beings who follow Satan’s lead see their impending destruction in Christ’s arrival. Their ongoing response is one of fury, an unleashing of the irrational anger at the core of their being.

Like Herod, any self-centered human can experience how frustration leads to anger, and anger can turn violent. There’s also a general brokenness to the world, the result of uncountable generations of sinful decision-making going back to the original break between humanity and God.

So even at the time of the birth of Christ, horrors persisted. And horrors will persist, for a time.

God has provided the solution, though. Somehow, the solution even will be mysteriously retroactive, wiping away every tear, to quote Revelation 21:4. We also can look to the concluding verses in Jeremiah 31:15-17, to which Matthew alluded after telling the tale of the Bethlehem children:

“There is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country.”

The work of Christ does not yet relieve us of the horrors we have witnessed or experienced, but it will. That great truth, mysterious as it is, should give us hope in all circumstances.

Lord, as we confront the dark realities of our world, give us a deeper understanding of how very temporary you will prove them to be. Amen.

The Christ Child in Mind

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Ephesians 5:4: Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.


Conflicts among shoppers aside, people generally are nicer to each other this time of year. That’s one of the happy side effects of drawing close to Christmas, as the lights and general tenor of the season take effect.

Let’s enjoy it while we can. Projecting niceness—politeness, thoughtfulness, sensitivity to others—is a dying art. I don’t think the pandemic was the beginning of our decline, either. It simply aggravated a growing tendency toward incivility.

Lately, I’ve noticed this tendency extends even into the way companies market their products. There’s a kind of ugliness designed into some brands and packaging. I assume professional marketers peered into peoples’ hardening hearts with their surveys and focus groups and said, “We can make money off this trend.”

For decades, we’ve had products with names and packaging that you wouldn’t want children or teens to see. They were kept away in special stores or catalogs.

What’s surprising is how these products now encroach on everyday places, like the shelves of big-box stores, bookstores and mom-and-pop businesses. I went to pay for my takeout at one of my favorite little family restaurants recently, and was surprised to see at the register a professional display of seasoning products, each item’s name a variation on a crude word for excrement.

I normally let such things go, fearing I’m somehow playing into the stereotype of the uptight or judgmental Christian. That day, I did comment to the young woman who rang up my order that I was glad I wasn’t standing there with a child or a youth group. I was imagining the conversation I would have to have later with a kid just learning to read, or a teenager confused about social boundaries.

Maybe we do need to speak up more, in a gentle way. I don’t want our culture to end up like other places in the world where I’ve seen nudity and bawdy jokes displayed on highway billboards.

More than ever, I appreciate Paul’s exhortation to avoid crude words and actions. By themselves, these social transgressions can seem relatively unimportant. But we have to consider how they slowly poison us, creating patterns of thoughtlessness that quickly devolve into meanness and sin.

Hey, when it comes to crude behavior, I’ve shown my ugly side much too often over the years, and I don’t guard my speech and behaviors enough now. But it’s time for a change, and the image of the Christ Child before us certainly should help.

Lord, in all situations, help us to bring gentleness into the world with our words and actions. Amen.