Summary: Herod issues an order that all little boys two years old & younger in Bethlehem are to be murdered. In horror, we wonder how anyone could have reacted that way to a baby’s birth. (PowerPoints available - #180)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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A. Please listen as I read these familiar words found in Matthew 2:1-12. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem & asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east & have come to worship him.’
“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, & all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests & teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.
‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’
“Then Herod called the Magi secretly & found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem & said, ‘Go & make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go & worship him.’
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, & the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, & they bowed down & worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures & presented him with gifts or gold & of incense & myrrh.
"And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
B. Christmas time can bring out very different reactions from different people. For many, it is a time of joy & giving. It is a time of parties & hearing from people we haven't heard from for a long time a very special time of the year.
But for others, Christmas is a time of sadness, loneliness, depression & despair.
ILL. A survey a few years ago asked people if they were looking forward to Christmas. While most answered "Yes," far too many said "No."
When asked why, they gave a variety of answers. For example, "Christmas reminds us of things that ought to be, but are not.” “Christmas is a time of love, but we feel very unloved.”
“Christmas is a time of giving, but we don't want to give, or can't afford to give.” “It’s a family time, but there is anger & hostility in our family circle."
You see, Christmas is a time of peace & good will, but too many are at war with themselves & with others.
ILL. This caused someone to rewrite the words of a familiar Christmas carol:
"O little town of heartaches, how troubled we see thee lie.
Throughout thy deep & dream tossed sleep our fears go marching by.
And in thy dark thoughts dwelleth our everlasting fright.
The dread & tears of all the years are visiting tonight."
C. The first Christmas wasn't a happy time for King Herod, either. Listen as I read Matthew 2:16-18.
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, & he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem & its vicinity who were two years old & under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
“Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping & great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children & refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’”
Herod presents a very negative side to the Christmas story. Everything else is so positive. Here are shepherds & wise men. Here are angels who sing their joy. Here is the miracle of birth, the joy of God's love, the radiance of His light. But in the midst of the whole Christmas story there is one negative person & one negative reaction.
Herod sees the birth of Jesus as a threat & a curse. So he issues an order that all little boys two years old & younger in Bethlehem are to be murdered. In horror, we wonder how anyone could have reacted that way to a baby's birth.
I. HEROD WAS SO WRAPPED UP IN HIMSELF THAT NOBODY ELSE MATTERED
The first reason seems to be that Herod was so wrapped up in himself that nobody else mattered.
A. When Herod looked in his mirror, what did he see? He saw a king with power, prestige, & wealth. He saw a king who wore rich robes & a crown, who held a scepter in his hand, seated upon a royal throne.