December 22, Matthew 2:13-18
By Alton Lacey, Missouri Baptist University President
Much of what we cherish about Christmas is in the many stories of how it evokes the best in human nature. Music, movies, television and newspapers are full of happy stories of peace, love, hope, and joy. Matthew 2 reminds us that Christmas in the real Bethlehem was a stark contrast to our happy celebration. Intense political intrigue and brutal bloodshed followed the Nativity. When Herod heard about this threat to his throne, it set up a confrontation between the king and the One who would be King that resulted in the slaughter of innocent children.
At the most basic level it is a story about God's engaging the world, about making a home with us. It is Matthew's way of telling the story of "the Word made flesh," except Matthew calls it Bethlehem. God through Christ has made it clear He wants to have us, and it is going to be messy. There is no sugarcoating the message here. This was no easy, painless entry. It came through the dirt, blood and screams of Bethlehem. If we look closely, we can see Calvary in this story. If God's love is to get through to us, there will be pain and hurt as we let go of our old selves.
We live in a world that is no less in need that it was 2,000 years ago. We have our own Herods, despots who seek to consolidate power and control over others through any means. We would much prefer the Christmas story we want. But if we are honest, it is the truth about Bethlehem that we need. Christ came to Bethlehem that we might be brought to God.