photo by Charles Edward Case

In Matthew’s Gospel narrative, it doesn’t take long for the coziness and light of the stable and the heavenly host to give way to fear and darkness. Power lashes out, in a twisted expression of violent self-preservation. Herod, threatened by rumors of a king that could supplant him, orders the murder of every male child in his region under two years of age.

Scripture tells us that Herod was in a “furious rage.” So, we know from the text that part of his motivation was vengeance. I wonder also if he issued his bloody decree so that he could feel safe. By eliminating perceived threats by any means necessary his position could remain secure—or so he thought. Power self-perpetuates and self-protects. And, more often than not, the defenseless suffer in the process.

We see this process unfolding in our own nation. It is especially pronounced on our southern border and in all areas where power structures thrive by “othering” individuals and groups. And I know that many of us have cried over this, and prayed, and fought the injustices we know are happening with the means at our disposal.

And still the work continues. Perhaps that is the power of heartwarming celebration existing so closely with the heartbreaking tragedy: so that God’s gifts can sustain us as we reject violence and build community. So that God’s presence with us can galvanize us to respond to fear with love.