Summary: A sermon for the first Sunday in Advent
"Let's Keep Herod in Christmas"
Sermon Series: "Christmas: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly"
Matthew 2:1, 7-8, 16-18
It's been very popular in the last few decades or so to say something to the effect of: "Let's Keep Christ in Christmas."
Amid the swirl of Christmas tree decorations, the frenzy of shopping and Santa Claus Jesus sometimes seems to get lost in the mix.
But Jesus is the Reason for the Season!!!
Jesus is to be our central focus.
And in order that we don't get caught up in just a feel-good sort of Christmas story it's important to remember that the people and events that surround Jesus' birth have powerful spiritual meanings as well.
There are shepherds and wise men, Mary and Joseph, angels and the innkeeper--even the evil King Herod.
And we learn from all of them.
So, God calls us to remember, as we look at some of the different parts of the Christmas story--even some parts that we might hope to forget.
That's why it's important to keep, even King Herod--The Man Who Tried to Kill Christmas--in Christmas.
Herod "The Great," as he was known, was a bad man; a cruel man; an evil man, who thought nothing of killing members of his own family.
If Herod suspected that anyone might be a rival to his power, that person was immediately put to death.
And the older Herod got, the more paranoid he became.
He murdered his wife and his mother-in-law.
He killed his oldest son, and two other sons.
Augustus, the Roman Emperor, had said that it is was "safer to be Herod's pig than to be Herod's son."
When Herod realized his own death was near, Herod ordered the arrest of all the leading and most beloved citizens of all the villages.
Then they were to be slaughtered at the exact same moment that Herod died--so that the nation would be plunged into mourning at the time of his death.
So it should come as no surprise that when Herod heard that Jesus, "the newborn king of the Jews" had come into the world that he became very "troubled."
And that he eventually "sent soldiers to kill all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger..." in order to get rid of King Jesus.
Just picture the soldiers breaking down the doors of every house in Bethlehem, killing all the babies right in their mother's arms.
This story explodes with grief!!!
But it's the way the world was, and it's the way the world is now.
Across the centuries, Herod has become a symbol of evil.
We may want to forget that Herod is part of the Christmas story.
But let's keep Herod in Christmas to remind us that Jesus came into this world as a baby with a "price on His head."
Let's keep Herod in Christmas to remind us just how desperately we need a Savior in this world which is so full of evil!!!
On December 14th of last year, a young man named Adam Lanza shot his mother 4 times with a .22 caliber rifle.
Then it was off to the school where [according to reports] he once had been a relatively happy child, packing four other guns and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition.
He fired more than 150 shots from another rifle before turning a 10mm Glock pistol on himself once police arrived.
In the meantime, he had slaughtered 20 first grade children along with six adults.
Police have been unable to find any motive for the murders.
The killings in Newtown, about 60 miles outside New York, happened less than five months after a similar bloodbath at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, outside Denver.
Some of us might like to think that evil is long ago and far away, like Nero feeding Christians to the lions in Rome or Hitler herding millions of people into the gas chambers in Europe.
But at almost any given moment, it seems, the headlines tell us of another slaughter of the innocents.
Evil around the globe comes crashing into our living rooms.
A dictator in Zimbabwe grabs land and seals off the water that brings life to it, causing hundreds of thousands of human beings to die of starvation.
Young Palestinian terrorists strap dynamite around their waists, blowing themselves up in a crowded Jerusalem mall.
In return, Israeli planes bomb Palestinian schools and places of worship.
Civil strife in Sudan slaughters thousands of women and children.
Right here in Chattanooga it seems that there are shootings and killings nearly every other night.
There is evil in the world.
And evil is not limited to the Herods, Hitlers or even the Adam Lanza's of history.
We are all capable of great evil.