I did not know what to expect when I left for church this morning, but I knew that 9:00 a.m. Sunday could not come fast enough for me this weekend. On the schedule was another sermon in the holiday themed sermon series, The Characters of Christmas. Today we would be learning about Joseph and the lessons we can take from his life. In between the first two songs of the service, the praise band talked about the tragedy at Sandy Hook and we prayed as a congregation. I thought perhaps this was it. Maybe the rest of the service would focus on the joy of Christmas rather than the juxtaposition of such a horribly evil act as the one that occurred Friday morning in Connecticut.
And then the pastor began to speak, reminding us of one aspect of the Christmas story few of us like to recall – Herod and the Magi. When Herod heard that a new King of the Jews had been born, the terribly cruel and evil king tried to trick the Magi and the prophets into sharing both the time and place of Jesus’ birth. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with their infant son, and while this saved the life of Jesus, it did not save the other sons of Bethlehem. Herod ordered all boys age two and younger to be killed, and historians estimate that between twenty and sixty children were killed under this evil decree.
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. Matthew 2:18
Evil is not new. Tragedy does not belong to America nor does it exist only in modern times. Grief has always been and will always be a part of the Christmas story. But as it did two thousand years ago, we must allow love, not fear, to guide us in the coming days and weeks, to fill our hearts with grace and peace, not judgment and doubt. I was grateful for this reminder today…
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18