Matthew 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.
To begin our story we need to keep in mind the hymn verse that goes "the worlds was very evil" – this might put people in mind of the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas, he was supposed to be mean and evil – after all he did try to steal Christmas – he took all the presents, decorations, the trees, the lights, the ribbons and bows. He looked pretty bad, but deep inside he did have a heart, and Christmas changes him. Herod, the original Grinch, doesn’t try to steal Christmas, but he does try to kill the Christ. But there is nothing good inside Herod, and there is no real happy ending, the baby Jesus escapes as his family warned by an angel flees into Egypt – but Herod is very evil, and he doesn’t really care who he kills and orders all baby boys under 2 in the area of Bethlehem to be killed. Are people basically good? Its not what the scriptures say – by nature we are sinful and unclean. In baptism we die with Christ so that we might also rise with Christ to newness of life – but apart from the new life there is nothing good.
There are some people who miss the point of the story – they look and all they can ask is – Why didn’t God save the babies? But God didn’t kill the babies. Herod gave the order – but who questioned it? Who said – you are very evil, and are no longer fit to rule over us. The order was carried out, who stood in its way? Who spoke up saying it is not right to kill little babies. The world was very evil, and very much in need of a savior. And in some ways things have not really changed – for every day we have people killing babies – and its not in China or in some distant corner of the world – but it happens in our own backyard, as close as Sioux City or Sioux Falls. And this didn’t happen once long ago but has been going on for 20 years. The world is still very evil. And we still need a savior.
It isn’t God’s fault that babies die, not then, and not now – that just the way of the sinful world. But there is hope, for babies, even before they are born can hear the word of God, and the Holy Spirit can work faith in their hearts, so they, even before they are born can believe and be saved. There is hope and salvation in Christ.
Psalm 22:9-10Yet thou art he who took me from the womb; thou didst keep me safe upon my mother's breasts. Upon thee was I cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me thou hast been my God.
Psalm 71:6Upon thee I have leaned from my birth; thou art he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of thee.
And while it is sad that the babies die, there is yet more to the story, and it is good for us to continue. If you remember back to Christmas, Joseph started out in Nazareth, and because of the census must go to Bethlehem. Now that it is time to flee even Bethlehem, he can’t go back to Nazareth, but it south into Egypt – and this too is rather amazing – there is no question in his mind, and he doesn’t wait until morning Matthew 2:14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, And this was in the day before mini-marts and all night grocery stores, no time to pack, no time to gather provisions – it was just time to go. And the best part is that they went – they heeded the warning – the baby Jesus, our Savior is saved – so that in the fullness of time, according to God’s plan he can save us.
All this was in fulfillment of prophecy – Jeremiah warned of the weeping of Rachel hundreds of years before it happened. And the Prophet Hosea speaks of God’s son being called out of Egypt.
All for our salvation – and that is what is important – no Grinch, not matter how bad, can steal this gift of God in Christ our Lord.