Summary: A look at the slaughter of the innocents story in light of the recent tragedy in Conn.
Prop: put a skull and crossbones “ornament” on the sanctuary Christmas tree. Talk about how it doesn't fit with the image.
There's a story in the Bible that's part of the Christmas story that creates a similar disconnect. In fact, the disparity between it and the way we want the Christmas story to be is so great that you may not even know it's in there, since we tend to avoid it like the plague.
It's in Matthew 2:13-18.
There is it. Doesn't fit very well into the way we like to tell the Christmas story, does it? Too violent, too sad, too tragic, too bloody.
It's kind of like the skull and crossbones ornament on our Christmas tree – they just don't go together. Yet here it is in the Bible.
I want to talk this morning about why we're so quick to dismiss it and why it matters.
Why Does This Evil Occurrence Ruin The Christmas Story For Us? Because we want a warm and fuzzy religion.
Most of us want a glossy-photo Christmas. We want a warm-light, soft-focus, fuzzy, sentimental event. And this story threatens that.
What's that kind of religion look like?
a. It shares general platitudes, but never gets specific about anything I need to change.
b. It's all-inclusive – nothing is ever called wrong.
c. It has a vague God, not a specific Jesus.
d. It's all about love and acceptance, not any challenge and change.
This story of the slaughter of children is very conspicuously avoided in our usual telling of the Christmas story.
Think of all the Christmas plays you've ever seen? Manger scene? Check. Shepherds? Check. Wise men? Check. But this scene is always avoided.
Why? Well, we'd quickly say that it doesn't fit with the Christmas story. Actually, though, it is the Christmas story. And if it doesn't fit with the Christmas story, maybe that's a sign the story we're telling is not the complete one.
Think about that for a second: we're saying what the Bible says about the birth of Jesus is ruining our Christmas story. Wow – something is off there!
What Does That Look Like?
1. We try to insulate ourselves from anything unpleasant.
a. Our gated communities.
Or if we can't afford an actual gate, we at least want to live somewhere reasonably far from the really bad stuff that's going on. We're not really that troubled about evil until it happens in our neighborhood.
b. Our news.
The news brings up the sensational and interesting, but largely ignores the true, deep evils that have no easy solutions. Child sexual slavery in Asia. Poverty in Africa. It's all too depressing.
If something unpleasant is brought up, we prefer it to come with a way we can feel a little better about it (a small donation, a story of someone working on it) so that we can feel like something is happening. We don't like the problems that are huge and without obvious solutions.
c. Our lives.
Even just in everyday life, we'll avoid people we know are going through hardship and struggle.
2. We come to church to feel better, not to be better.
When we come to church, for many folks, they want a sermon that inspires, not challenges. They want music that uplifts, not convicts. They want to feel as though they're part of a church family without ever having to sacrifice anything. They want to feel as though they're close to God without having to make any changes.
The idea that I'm coming to church to be a better person is not really on the radar. The idea that I'm wanting to get rid of the sin in my life is not really a significant thought.
I just want to feel better.
What's This Evil Occurrence Tell Us About Jesus? Jesus did not come into the world to avoid evil, but to destroy it.
- 1 John 3:8.
Why didn't God save those babies?
That's a fair question. Not just for this episode, but for all the evil that’s in the world.
I think, though, that it points out what we're wanting: if there's going to be violence, let's make it PG-movie violence where there's the appearance of violence but no one actually gets hurt.
You know, when bullets always hit at people's feet and explosions stun people but don't kill them.
Jesus didn't come into a PG world. He came into the real world of unspeakable and persistent evil.
Ultimately this tragedy happens because Jesus is a threat to Herod's power.
We feel that way about Jesus sometimes too: He's claiming to have the right to judge us; to rule over us; to call our actions wrong. We're threatened by that and want to go back to fuzzy-picture God.