The Spirit of Herod

6 Jan


Although the din did not appear as great as in previous years, there were still ‘holiday’ trees, ‘winter’ concerts, and ‘solstice celebrations’, along with a liberal dose of the word ‘festive’ and even ‘party season.’  this Christmas.  A few days after Christmas I opened my annual tin of Quality Street (Christmas would not be complete without it) only to find the lid embossed with ‘Happy Diwali’.  The other tin I received (I was spoiled this Christmas) had no greeting – I guess it was an atheist tin.

In the Christmas narrative from Matthew’s Gospel we read of several responses to the birth of the baby Jesus.  Magi from the east were stirred to make a long, arduous journey across the desert.  Jerusalem we are told was ‘disturbed’, the Greek word meaning ‘agitated, or troubled.’  Surprisingly, the chief priests and teachers didn’t appear to be too bothered (or excited) that a long awaited prophecy was being fulfilled.  Know any people in today’s church like that?

The most outrageous reaction though came from Herod.  Although he feigned interest, it was he who was at the source of the agitation in Jerusalem.  Herod was not a nice guy.  Family members that he suspected of casting a longing glance at his throne were permanently dispatched, if you catch my drift.  Herod really enjoyed being king, and regardless of who this baby might be, there could only be one king—and Herod didn’t share.

A number of years ago Bramwell Booth wrote:

Herod the king sought to kill the child.  So it is even now.  Don’t be deceived; where Christ comes, storms come.  The world of selfishness and power and wealth will kill the Divine Thing in you, if it can.  Between the prince of this world and the Prince of the world to come no truce was possible long ago in quiet Judea, and no truce is possible now.  The spirit of the world is still the spirit of murder.[1]

I wonder what Booth would make of the world in which we now live, where any public acknowledgement of the birth of this child ‘troubles’ the ACLU, and others like them.  Why so threatened by a baby in a manger?   There was even a university (a place we associate with ‘higher learning’), that sought to ban candy canes because, yes, if it was held in a certain way it made a ‘J’.  The horror!

Yes, the spirit of Herod is alive (and not very well) even today.  It still refuses to share any glory, or relinquish any authority to the child.  And while we cannot expect the world to sing His praises and celebrate His birth, how can we keep from singing?  If angels, who have seen just about everything, can get excited at His birth, then how much more those to whom He came.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Cor 9:15)

[1] Bramwell Booth, Our Master: Thoughts for Salvationists About Their Lord  (London: The Salvation Army Publishing Department, 1913), 48.


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