When Christmas isn’t Good News

by Rob Tims

Thirty-seven years before the birth of Jesus, Herod was faced with a decision: “Do I let a rival Jew take my land, or do I appeal to Ceasar Augustus, compromising all that I value and believe in?  Do I reach a compromise with my own people and lose control over the land dad game me, or do I reach for the heights and compromise with the Gentiles, the enemies of God?”

You probably know what Herod did. He reached out to Rome, conquered Jerusalem and was named by Caesar Augustus and Marc Antony “The King of the Jews.” He then became a master builder, constructing cities and the great harbor city Caesarea Martima (Caesar by the Sea). He constructed Greek Stadia and Theaters for Greek games and entertainment, even in Jerusalem, and he funded (through heavy taxation) a 90-year project to renovate and reconstruct the Temple of the Lord–a gift to the Jewish people.

Herod gifted his Gentile subjects with temples to their gods also. In Herod’s mind, with all this building for every people group, he was putting his people back on the map. Of course his people saw him as a sacrilege to Jewish faith and life.

But such was the way of Herod. And once he reached the heights, once he was no longer a second-class world leader, he did what many do when they reach this point–he would be damned before he gave any of it up. There was no room for anyone else in Herod’s world, but Herod. He became a tyrant.

In his book, “The Jesus Way,” Eugene Peterson writes:

“He became a virtual monster, hated by everyone, massacring at whim. Executions were routine. Twice, when he had to be away on dangerous political business, he arranged with a confidante that if for any reason he failed to return, his favorite wife, Mariamne (he had ten wives), was to be killed–he couldn’t think of anyone else having her. He was passionately in love with her, but it was typically Herodian kind of love, love of possession, not a person. Of course, he ended up killing her eventually because of jealousy. He also killed his uncle Joseph, his mother in law Alexandra, and three of his sons. Caesar Augustus, a friend of Herod’s said, ‘I would rather be Herod’s pig than his son.’”

This is the man we read about in Matthew 2. Upon hearing of this Jesus, “King of the Jews,” he immediately sat out to end the threat to his throne by taking the child’s life. He would end up taking the lives of countless children other than Jesus in order to protect what he earned.

Christmas was not good news for Herod. Jesus was a threat to all he held dear.

And Jesus could be that for you and I today.

King Jesus wants my hard-earned crown.

And if I don’t submit to him, and receive something far more valuable in so doing, then Christmas won’t be any fun for me either.

No, Christmas is not always good news, at least for those of us who have crowns to lose.

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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