Summary: Every instance of our lives is part of a greater spiritual conflict. The first Christmas was no exception.
There is the beautiful side of Christmas. It’s found in Luke's gospel. Luke’s account of the first Christmas is a love story set to music. There are angels coming and going. They’re singing and lighting up the sky. There are shepherds coming to visit. There is a baby lying in a manger.
But there is another side of Christmas! It’s the dark side, the hard side. It is Matthew's account of the first Christmas. In Matthew’s account, there is hatred and betrayal. There’s murder and weeping. The doors are locked shut. There are families hiding in their basements. Mothers hold their dead babies in their arms, executed by order of the king because it was Christmas.
You probably know the story. The Magi have followed the star from the East. They stop in the royal city thinking the new king would be born there. Upon asking King Herod if he knew where this new king was, he calls out his religious advisors and they tell him that scripture prophesied that it would be Bethlehem. Herod relays that information to the Magi and then requests that after the Magi find this baby, they return to him and share where this baby is at.
Matt. 2:9-20 – 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” 19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
We don't like this account of the Christmas story but it is important to know so that we can understand what Christmas is all about.
Have you ever asked yourself why Christmas is such a difficult time for some people? For many, Christmas is the hardest time of the year. It’s a time of conflict or grief. There’s a burden to carry. There is something painful to endure.
Research shows that more people experience depression at this time of year. Suicide rates rise dramatically during the Christmas season and into the New Year. There are more family fights, and more tears are shed during this time than at any other holiday or season. For many people, it is not a season to be jolly.
There are a number of reasons for the feelings of depression and futility during this season. One reason is loneliness. Christmas is a time of gathering with family and friends. But in the midst of all the fellowship, there are people who are alone – some for the first time. That makes this season difficult for those struggling with loneliness.
A second reason is a sense of failure. At the end of one year and into another, we tend to evaluate our lives. A good number of people focus on their failures instead of their successes. Some of us think too long on the mistakes and it produces a sense of failure.
A third reason is finances. Our income didn’t match up with our desires. We spend a lot at the end of the year for Christmas presents and seasonal gatherings. We either wish that we could have been more lavish or we dread to open the credit card statements coming after the first of the year.