"SUFFERING AT CHRISTMAS "
December 28, 2017
TEXT: Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16)
Today is Childermas, the day the church remembers the babies in Bethlehem that Herod murdered. This is the dark side of Christmas, the part that never gets onto Christmas cards and is rarely mentioned during our celebrations. And yet, maybe it should be. Because what happened to those babies points to something that was a part of Jesus' life on earth from the very beginning, something that we experience also: the power of sin, death, and the devil.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, or so says the world, but we all know that it is also a time of grief for many people. Those mothers and fathers in Bethlehem never forgot their babies' deaths; every time that season of the year came round again, they would have remembered. We, too, remember: the first Christmas without dad, the fifth since the divorce, the first since the cancer diagnosis. We look around at family gatherings for people who are no longer there. And every time we remember, we hurt again.
The babies of Bethlehem did not escape suffering. Jesus Himself did not escape it. But Jesus redeemed it, both for them and for us. Jesus took His own experience of betrayal, suffering, and death, and turned it into the greatest triumph the world has ever known. By His suffering He freed us from the power of sin, and by His resurrection He broke the power of death over everyone who believes in Him.
Now there is hope for us, and for the people we love. Now we know that death is not the end, and God's love has triumphed over the worst the devil can do. We still suffer, we still grieve, but because we belong to Jesus, we know that we, too, will share in His victory. Death will not have the last word. Jesus will.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank You for redeeming us and those we love; draw us close to You in faith and trust. Amen.