The Magi came from the East, seeking the one who had been born King of the Jews. It wasn’t welcome news to Herod. Though he reigned over Israel as an agent of Rome, Herod himself had not been born a Jew and the Jewish leaders had never embraced Herod’s reign. A king–even a newborn king–sounded suspiciously like a threat. And threats–even small ones–were not something Herod tolerated. So he lied. Go, search for him, find him, then report back to me so I can worship him too. And when the Magi outwitted the paranoid king, Herod issued orders. A few soldiers, a short ride to Bethlehem. Kill every baby boy in the village–there can’t be too many in a town that size.
And so mothers wept as darkness tried to stamp out the light.
We like to skip this part of the story. Infanticide doesn’t fit with our living nativities and choruses of Silent Night. But it’s a part of the story that we must remember because it reminds us that Jesus didn’t come to some simpler, cleaner version of our world. He came to a world that is very bit as messed up and filled up with violence and fear as ours. Jesus didn’t come to a world at peace. He came to bring peace, and he came as light piercing the darkness.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).
Light conquers darkness. Jesus didn’t demand that the world clean itself up or chase away the shadows before he came. Instead, Jesus stepped into the midst of darkness to conquer it the only way we can ever conquer darkness: by being light.
How do you get rid of the dark? You turn on the light. And that’s what we celebrate at Christmas–the coming of the true Light.
As we gather with our families and friends this year, we gather in defiance of the dark. We live in a world torn by violence and fear. Anger, doubt, loss of faith–these things permeate the atmosphere. Some grieve. Others walk through their own private struggles. Jesus brought the light. He still does. You, dwelling in your own darkness, rejoice! Light has come. Jesus comes bringing hope, joy, peace, love–he comes bringing light. Reach out; hold on; embrace it. Embrace him. For he is the Light of the World.
Christ’s light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it. Don’t curse the darkness. Live as light.