Bethlehem was a small village with a population of 300. When Mary and Joseph arrived, it was packed with visitors paying their taxes. And so, how is it that the only guests at Jesus’ birth are a bedraggled group of shepherds? How many people missed the evening of Christ’s birth? How many missed that moment of hope, joy, and peace?
King Herod was one of them. He was an unscrupulous, ruthless monster who married ten times, called for the execution of his uncle, mother-in-law, beloved wife, father-in-law, three sons, barber, and close friend. He also had his brother-in-law and the high priest drowned.
And the worst part of the Christmas story was Herod’s murder of all children in the region two years of age or under—including his own son. All because he feared a successor to his throne. Though death toll estimates range from two hundred to two thousand, it is more realistic to estimate thirty to sixty children in a village of three hundred. Losing one tenth of Bethlehem’s population would have meant extreme grief and mourning. “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).
In 2,000 years, some things about our world haven’t changed. We still have the bad news of oppression, high taxes, executions, persecution, religious constraints, and refugees fleeing for their lives.
But the very reason Jesus came was to offer eternal hope. And those who came to the manger left sharing the Good News.
One thing hasn’t changed: we still need to run to Jesus like the shepherds, be prepared to worship like the Magi, and to experience the joy the angels foretold. And like the shepherds, Magi, and angels, we also need to leave proclaiming the Good News to a world in need of hope.
For as Isaiah 61 proclaims, “The LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
There is no better news.
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