When we celebrate holidays, there are stories behind them all. For example, when we celebrate the 4th of July one of the things we acknowledge is the ultimate sacrifice of our soldiers in past wars fought for our freedom.
In a spiritual sense a great war began in the heavens at the birth of Jesus the Messiah who sacrificed himself to free us from the consequences of our sins. However, there’s a whole back story you probably won’t hear about at the Christmas Eve service that gets lost behind the Christmas Carols and the oft-told stories in churches.
Jesus is in imminent danger! After he’s born an angel instructs Joseph to flee to Egypt with the child to escape the sword of King Herod who believes Jesus to be a threat to the throne.
He learns from the wise men that Jesus has been named ‘King of the Jews’ so he lies to them saying:
“Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too” (Matthew 2:8).
Fortunately for Jesus the wise men live up to their name and they never do report back to him:
“Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under…Herod’s brutal act fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead” (Matthew 2:16-18).
Unfortunately this story doesn’t fit very well into a Christmas song! Jesus entry into the world was traumatic for those in power. And yet the tragedy of Herod’s depravity gave way to the miracle of Jesus escaping and surviving.
Many people experience sadness at Christmas time. We’ve been taught it’s supposed to be a happy time. Although we definitely should feel joy as we reflect on the gift of our savior, we see from the very first Christmas that Satan (the enemy of our soul) will stop at nothing to steal that gift from us.
The good news is that years later when Jesus Christ ascends to heaven, He leaves us with a gift of mind and heart:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27-29).
Jesus told us several times that we’d be attacked for our faith. The first example was the great miracle of Christ that started with the often missed miracle at Christmas of Jesus Christ escaping King Herod. Despite this tragedy, Jesus’ life gave us eternal gifts that could never fit under any tree, salvation and the peace… not of this world.