This is the fourth part of our four part Lessons and Carols service from Dec. 31 at St. Stephen’s UMC. If you’ve been reading along for the last few days, I hope these retellings have made you think a little bit, and have been fun. If you’re just tuning in now and wondering what in the world I’m talking about, the introduction is in a gray box just like this one on the first post. This one references Matthew 2:1-18.
Now since Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, a group of very wise men from out towards Persia who knew the stars showed up at King Herod’s asking him about the newborn king.
Herod, being both out-of-the-loop and a very jealous man, was deeply concerned. And his council of clergymen and scholars was troubled with him — they were the sort of clergymen and scholars who tended to feel exactly how the king wanted them to.
But he asked the scribes and clergymen where it was the Christ child was supposed to be born, and they told him, “Bethlehem, of course! It’s the City of David. Because, as the prophets said,
‘No matter what anybody says Bethlehem, you’re really not so bad. Because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd all God’s people.’”
But Herod pulled these Magi aside and really grilled then about when and how a star appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, and he told them, “Once you find this kid, swing back by my palace and give me his address. Because I want to ki..I mean, pay him homage, too.”
After the lengthy conversation with Herod, the wise men went on their way, and they followed that star they’d seen in the East until they were right in the spot where Jesus and his parents were staying. They were so excited, because the stars had literally aligned for them.
They were so excited that they threw Jesus a party, with much rejoicing and festivities and honor. Oh, and presents. They also gave the child lots of presents.
After this party, the group said their goodbyes. But they went home a way that did not take them by Herod’s place, because God told them in a dream to steer clear of there, and also because that guy gave them the creeps.
Once everybody had left, Joseph was visited by one of God’s angels. That angel told Joseph to get up, get moving, and take your family out of the country, go all the way to Egypt. Because Herod is mad and he’s not at all afraid to shed blood.
So Joseph got up, packed up, and in the middle of the night the Holy Family took off into Egypt as refugees from a dangerous ruler. They stayed in Egypt until Herod had died. In addition to keeping Jesus alive, this fulfilled the prophecy that God would call his son out of Egypt.
I cannot emphasize enough that Herod was a bad dude. Once he learned that the wise men had slighted him, he flew into a blind rage. He had every male child under two in the greater Bethlehem area slaughtered. The devastated families were reminded of the prophecy of old,
A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much grieving.
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she did not want to be comforted,
because they were no more.