Summary: Why did Herod want to kill the Christ child? His motivation has much in common with those today who want to kill Christmas.
OPEN: (I sat on a stool on stage, reading the following from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” I taped my sermon into the pages of the book and used the book as both prop and way to hide my sermon notes).
Every Who down in Who-ville liked a Christmas a lot…
But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did NOT!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath
Was busy now, hanging a mistletoe wreath.
“And they’re hanging their stockings!” he snarled with a sneer
“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”
Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas coming!”
Hmmm… it seems like a Christmas has always had that kind of effect on some people. In our present age, Christmas is so disliked by some people that groups like the ACLU have threatened people with lawsuits if there’s even a mention of Christ in the season of Christmas.
ILLUS Not so long ago, Broward County (Florida) told the Calvary Chapel there that they could not include the words: “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” in their Christmas display. So the church filed a suit in the U.S. District Court claiming they had the right to display the words.
Judge William Zloch agreed with their “free speech” argument and allowed them to keep the words in their display as long as they included the words,
“Calvary Chapel says,” before the words “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” (report from Yahoo.com 11/ 21/ 03)
Even though 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, and even though Christianity is the largest religious group in the nation, “Jesus” has been repeatedly forced into the closet during this season. So much so that the very word “Christmas” has been removed from the season and replaced by the term “Happy Holidays”
ILLUS: California recently made the news on this issue. Years ago they had changed the name of their Christmas tree to the “Holiday Tree”… until Governor Schwarzenegger declared that he thought that was unnecessary … and promptly renamed it a “Christmas Tree” much to the chagrin of the politically correct crowd.
ILLUS: Just recently I read about a school in Chicago – which recently staged their holiday program celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa… but excluded any reference to Christ and the Christmas story.
ILLUS: Back in 1991, humorist Dave Barry poked fun at all of this when he wrote:
To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non memorable songs such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman” and--this is a real song--”Suzy Snowflake,” all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology.
I. There’s something about the story of the birth of Christ that creates animosity
ILLUS: James Martin The Upper Room
On a trip to the Holy Land, I bought a nativity set for my Sunday School. Carved out of olive wood in Bethlehem itself, the crèche had all the traditional figures – sheep and oxen, wise men and shepherds. Mary and Joseph and, of course, the baby Jesus.
For the return trip, security at Tel Aviv airport was very strict. I remember thinking they would not trouble to examine my nativity set; it was obviously innocent. But they did. Each figure was carefully scrutinized and even taken away for x-ray examination.
“You see,” said the security officer, “we must make sure there is nothing explosive in them.”
There is something EXPLOSIVE in the story of Jesus. And nowhere is that explosiveness more obvious than in the story of Herod.
King Herod was King of the land of Israel in the day when Jesus was born. But he wasn’t King by right of birth, for he wasn’t an Israelite, he was an Edomite. He was ruler of the land only because Rome had given him that throne.
He called himself “the Great” and in some ways he was a “great king.”
o He had doubled the size of the Temple
o Built numerous palaces and fortifications