Not everyone was happy.
“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”
Jesus posed a threat. His birth was not cause for all to celebrate. For those who enjoyed power at the expense of profiting off others, the Messiah was no welcome citizen. For Herod, this child did not symbolize life because it meant death to his kingdom. What were the chances that the Messiah would actually arise out of this little town as foretold? Certainly he didn’t really expect him to come as a baby. But the Magi’s inquiry about him confirmed his fears. And he was willing to keep his power no matter the cost.
Naomi Hanvey writes, “It’s kind of obvious why we don’t usually see Herod in the Christmas story. We don’t want to complicate the pure, sacred narrative with this subplot of murder and intrigue, right? The image of the nativity creche isn’t quite as picturesque when you add a paranoid king slaughtering children in the periphery.“
But it matters. God’s hand can be threatening to those who find comfort in what the earthly kingdom values. Understanding the whole narrative helps us hear all that God says to us as his hand weaves through the plot. If a baby caused such fear in a ruler, we have to wonder why. When Mary and Joseph are exhorted to flee to a foreign country, we have to wonder why. Jesus’ life was speaking volumes before he could talk.
God speaks to the world through the whole narrative. When we leave out the uncomfortable parts, we miss seeing parts of God’s character and how the story speaks to us today.