“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. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “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.” (Matt 2:16-18 NIV)
The tumultuous first Christmas culminated when Herod decided to get rid of his potential competition of the nearly newborn Messiah. To remove any doubt of his success, he eliminated all infants in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
Imagine your own child being slaughtered to protect the ambitions of an evil ruler! The pain of the inhabitants of Bethlehem was vivid. They had lost what was most important to them. They would never, ever forget that day and they would sadly commemorate it for the rest of their lives. That first Christmas was a bloody one where self-interest was more important than life itself.
How different from the self-sacrificing attitude of the Messiah Himself. He left everything behind, His kingdom, His Father, the multitudes who adored Him to come to this earth where people were more concerned about themselves than others. No wonder most did not recognize Him! “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (John 1:10-11 NIV)
Although people are willing to sacrifice the lives of others in order to promote themselves, there are some who follow the attitude of the One born that first Christmas day.
An anxious man was seated next to one of my sons on flight FI602. His eyes darted around nervously until he spotted a stewardess. “Is the plane full?” He asked hopefully. “My wife and I are separated on this flight, and I was hoping there might be two empty seats together somewhere!”
But her answer was not what he wanted to hear. “Yes, the plane is quite full. You’ll have to wait until the doors have closed before we’ll know if there are any other available seats!”
Now the window seat next to my wife, across the aisle from our boys, was empty, and she immediately asked our boys if one of them would like to sit there so that the man and his wife could sit together. My oldest son, immediately vacated his seat for the man’s wife.
The anxious passenger stared in amazement. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” was all he could say.
This reminded me of another flight back to the old country. My dad had passed away, and leaving our child behind in the care of his grandmother, we had managed to book last-minute tickets for my wife and myself. Though we knew our baby be well cared for, our hearts were breaking for both reasons. Naturally, due to the lateness of our booking, my wife and I had not been assigned seats together. Our plight however, seemed to fall on dead ears, and we had to make the transatlantic flight separated from each other.
May this Christmas bring us back to our senses. May we realize that there is much more to life than just expecting gifts. Such attitudes will always leave us feeling empty, wanting more. We will never feel satisfied.
Will we be a destroyer, like Herod? Or will we be a “builder up” kind of person, like Jesus? We must decide, once and for all! “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Rom 15:2 NIV)
When we decide to care more for others than for ourselves, like the volunteers who helped out during 911, who were willing to sacrifice their own lives to save just one, we are being “builder up” kinds of people. But when we follow in the footsteps of Herod, we tear people down.
Will we be like Herod? Or will we be like the One we are supposed to celebrate this Christmas? Why not love like He does this Christmas? Why not accept His love from above and touch the lives of everyone around us?
“May I please have your seat?”
“Who do you think you are?”
Hmmmm. Maybe we still have a lot of growing up to do!
(To access the entire “Christmas Under Fire” devotional series, please click here.)