“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, NIV)
The words “joy,” “merry,” “peace,” and “celebrate” are common during the Christmas season—not the words “weeping” or “tears.” Yet the Gospel of Matthew records that, as a result of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem that very first Christmas, the families in that little village wept and had no comfort.
Their pain was as a result of the actions of King Herod, who jealously had all baby boys in Bethlehem two years of age and younger killed. This was to prevent any potential king from arising from there as the Magi had indicated would happen.
Using a quote from Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew describes the actions of those in Bethlehem by using the words describing Rachel. Jeremiah describes her as mourning from where she was buried in Ramah (on her way to Bethlehem—Genesis 35:16–19) because her descendants in Jeremiah’s time were no longer enjoying life in the Land of Promise. Rather they were experiencing exile. But this verse in Jeremiah 31 is found in the midst of a passage describing what the Israelites will experience, in the future: “I [the LORD] will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).
Families in Bethlehem mourned as they remembered the death of their boys, but the Lord had something wonderful for them in the future. As a result of the birth of Jesus, sorrow would be turned to joy, weeping to laughter, and bowed heads to dancing. Christ’s coming would make possible resurrection and reconciliation.
Sometimes at the Christmas season we have pain in our hearts because of the circumstances of living in this fallen world with its cruelty. Sometimes it is hard to rejoice and be glad even at Christmas! But this Christmas I encourage you, in faith, to praise God for both the coming of Christ in the past and His coming in the future, which will comfort and give us a peace that will last for eternity.