A week before Christmas the television news magazine 60 Minutes began its broadcast with a segment on the unfolding humanitarian horror in the great Syrian city of Aleppo. Terri and I watched with tears in our eyes as a remarkable “army” of men known as The White Helmets, who while the dust is still settling, rush into neighborhoods flattened by indiscriminate bombings, digging in the rubble to free civilians. It was reported that the greatest fear in Aleppo is being buried alive. Sometimes the search begins when all that can be seen is the crown of a head or the wiggling of fingers. These white helmeted rescue workers are themselves targets of assassination because of their courage.
The second segment featured the Pope’s Choir—also known as the Sistine Chapel Choir—the oldest choir in the world, dating from the 7th century. The choir is made up of 30 boys and 22 men. Their music is heavenly. Tears started flowing again.
In that broadcast, horror-filled Aleppo was separated from the heavenly Sistine Chapel only by a few advertisements.
This is the day after Christmas. The angelic choir has returned to heaven. The shepherds have gone their way. In Jerusalem, King Herod is having a fit of jealousy over reports of a child born to be king. Fearing that his throne is threatened he sends soldiers to Bethlehem and the rest is history.
Some of you may have quit reading by now, not wanting to hear of such sadness on the day after Christmas. I understand. It’s just that the heavenly harmony of Christmas cannot be separated from the reality of earthly misery even on this day after Christmas. It is for a world and a history exactly like ours that Jesus was born. The promise of scripture is that in the end He will wipe every tear from our eyes and pain, suffering and sorrow will be no more.
Hallelujah! Our Savior is born!
Merciful God, astronauts comment on the utterly unique beauty of the earth viewed from afar. But down here at ground level, ugliness also abounds. We can compose lists of our sins, but there’s nothing to be gained by this. Instead it makes more senses for us to thank you for coming, not just to share in our misery, but to overcome it for us. We promise never to stop weeping for the brokenness of the world even as we also weep for joy at the glory of Jesus, your gift born for our salvation. Amen.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“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 my people Israel.” ’
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
There are times when we want something, and as much as we hope, and pray, and long for it, when it finally comes true, we just can’t believe it is real. The people of God longed for the Messiah—and when Jesus came, he was all that had been promised—even to us: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.