“Tragedy That First Christmas”
The 3rs Sunday of Advent - the15th Day of Advent
December 11, 2022
There are always hard things at Christmas and during the Christmas season, including Christmas day. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff work and emergency rooms are open. People get sick and people die. Cancer and illnesses of all sorts continue to ravage the body at Christmas. Heart attacks, strokes, and a myriad of illness take their toll. Depression is often at its highest level. Natural catastrophes happen. Accidents happen. Evil and evil people do not stop their evil activities at Christmas. People around the world starve on Christmas day. Christians will be persecuted on Christmas day and some will lose their lives. War in Ukraine and other parts of the world do not take a break for Christmas. Covid and flu continue to raise their ugly heads and hospitals are filling up again. Medicines are in short supplies. Suffering, tragedy, and death do not stop on Christmas day nor do they take a break in the Christmas season.
We are introduced to tragedy and evil at Christmas in Matthew 2. Herod, when he knew he had been tricked by the magi, became enraged and sent his wicked soldiers to Bethlehem where he had them slaughter every male child under the age of two. He chose age two guessing what time the star appeared that the magi had followed to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. How tragic. Historian Paul Maier estimates that approximately 25 little boys may have been slain that night at the hands of a deranged king.
There was no peace for the agony of the parents and families of those little boys that night and the ensuing days. Their lives, their families, and the life of Bethlehem – they all were SHATTERED that night. There were no answers for the utter despair, tears, and the loss that Herod brought. Nothing could be said except to acknowledge the truth there was no escape from the evil Herod that night.
“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH,
WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING,
RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN;
AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED,
BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE" (Matthew 2.18).
I have had friendships with people who have suffered great loss through death at Christmas. They dreaded ensuing Christmases because of all the memories of brokenness that returned. In many cases it took years before that brokenness loosened its noose and the joy of Christmas slowly returned.
What we can say about that tragic night in Bethlehem, and what we can say about death and tragedy in the Christmas season, is that God is with us. He does not forget us nor abandon us in our trials. Immanuel – God is with us - whatever the day may bring. We know this because this is the reason Christ was born. He was born to die for our sins as our Savior. He was born that holy Christmas night so that He might bear the wrath of God for our sin and die in our place as our substitute (Isaiah 53.5; 1 Peter 2.21-24; 3.18). He was born so that His agony would be our salvation and our strength in our hour of tragedy. We know that He is with us in the darkest hours of our trials because He experienced those darkest hours Himself on the cross; “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME (Matthew 27.46)?
The apostle Paul exhorts us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12.15b). Do you know people who are experiencing loss this Christmas season? Will you weep with them? Will you mourn with them? Will you be with them, and will you walk with them in their loss this Christmas season? Will you encourage them? Will I? Who might we be “with in their hardships” this Christmas season just as Jesus came and still comes to be with us?
Jesus did. He came as our sacrifice to save us from our sins (Matthew 1.21). He came into our world as a babe to show us that He loves and that He cares.
I recently had breakfast with a friend who shared with me the story of the untimely and tragic death of his bride soon after they were first married. He volunteered to me that he survived the first 6 months because the Body of Christ enveloped him every day of the those first 6 months.
That, my friends, is Christmas. God with us. God is present with us Himself and with us through the love, care, and presence of His people around us.
“Immanuel” - (God with us). God is with us in the times of our deepest sorrows and losses. Let’s encourage others and be with them in the midst of suffering seasons, especially in this Christmas season.
Have a blessed 15th Day of Advent!