A few years ago as part of an advent devotional I wrote about the darker side of christmas. The scandal of Christ’s lineage, the disbelief of Zechariah, Joseph’s thoughts of divorce, and the massacre of the innocents. Along with the devotional I wanted to include some song lyrics that reflect on this dark side of Christmas. For Christians especially, the Light of Christ in this season can make the darkness that much more harrowing. Come Lord Jesus!
Some Other Great Posts that meaningfully Reflect on Christmas
– Singing Christmas Songs After Christmas (Cardiphonia)
– Sentimentalizing, Sanitizing, and Spiritualizing Christmas (Kauflin)
– Consider Skipping ‘Christmas Season’ This Year (Sojourn)
“Still the earth in darkness lies.
Up from death’s dark vale arise
Voices of a world in grief,
Prayers of those who seek relief:
Now our darkness pierce again,
“Peace on earth, good will to men.”
“Peace on earth, good will to men.”
“Oh holy wrath, oh holy blood
Bethlehem’s cries and Rachel’s breath
Running from His righteous wounds
He came for the peace, of ancient Israel
He came for the peace, for favored men.”
Behold this child will pierce your heart
His Word will be a sword
A sign opposed to hearts concealed
And grace for heaven’s adored
What Child is This
mp3 | chart
Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you;
hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the babe, the son of Mary.
O troubled city of David’s birth,
Your infant tears are heard.
The little joy of Israel
will soon return unfurled.
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
When Herod in Jerusalem
5. For unto him was told that born
There was a greater King,
Whose matchless power it should him
Into subjection bring.
Wherefore he sent incontinent
His armed bands in rage,
For to destroy each mother’s joy
Under two years of age.
HERE is a whole collection of texts from church history that strive to work out in poetry the events of Matthew 2 surrounding Herod and the murder of the infants.
The Darker Side of Christmas #4 – Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem
The story of Herod and the infants of Bethlehem is a horrific episode in the birth narrative that is almost universally absent from Sunday school accounts of the story. Yet it is fundamental to understanding the hope that is present in Jesus’ birth. Here is one who will finally lead his people from slavery and persecution to the Promised Land. God wants to show that this infant born in a manger is uniting himself to the history of God’s struggling people.
The story, in itself, casts shadows of Pharaoh’s slaughter of the Israelite children in Egypt (Exodus 1:22), and Matthew helps us remember the children of Rachel who were killed by the Babylonians when they plundered Israel into exile (Jer 31:15-17). Yet even in Rachel’s inconsolable grief, God promises future hope for his child Israel in his son Jesus.
16Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
17Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted,
because they are no more.
Shedding some light…
In Herod we see an evil king whose rule and power is threatened by one who is divinely appointed to rule. Jesus is the king who will bring a new relationship between God and man and will lead his people to true salvation and victory. In the face of insurmountable evil and sorrow, we see God working his purposes to heal, restore, and renew hope, a hope that will be ultimately secured and anchored in the cross and resurrection. As you feel the sorrow present in evil and suffering, grieve. But grieve with hope, for a new day has dawned.
Great God, as we think about things we don’t understand, help us remember that one day you will bring an end to sickness, sorrow, pain, death, and evil.
Dear Father, we have all wept in the stark reality of evil and suffering in this world. We open our eyes daily to see a world still so broken from sin. Continue to give us joy and hope rooted in a savior who shared in the world’s tragedy and humanity. Soften our hard hearts with the songs of the angels and the outpouring of God’s Spirit. And continue to bring the blessings of your kingdom throughout the whole world.