When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
(Matthew 2:16, NIV)
Have you ever noticed that the only children in the Christmas story—other than the newborn King—are the males whom Herod slaughtered? Imagine the stress as Mary and Joseph fled more than one hundred miles to hide the Prince of Peace in Egypt.
But wait—didn’t the angels say they had good news for all people?
Yes. But that rose of good news had—and has— not fully bloomed. And until it blossoms, we feel the disconnect between tidings of joy and actual shalom on earth. Christmas might whisper to us of the world to come—through time with family, beloved carols, ham and wassail, a long-awaited hug, and/or Christmas morning with eyes all aglow—but we also mourn the depressed bank accounts, the family dysfunction, and the empty space at the table. Is it any wonder that so many grieve in December?
The children of Christmas remind us that this world is still badly broken. Indeed, the arrival of those who came to worship the Child set in motion horrific events, even as faith in Christ still divides households. But the First Advent is only the beginning. So we acknowledge the brokenness as we wait in lonely exile for the story’s dénouement. But we do not wait as those without hope. A new cry will one day rise up from Ramah. So, we sing these words of Edmund Sears:
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.