We all know the story.
Wise men come from the east, following a star to Jerusalem. They tell King Herod they’re looking for the “king of the Jews.”
Like the rest of Jerusalem, Herod is troubled, not thrilled, by the news. To Herod, another king must be a rival for his throne. He knows how to handle rivals.
Herod sends the magi to Bethlehem, David’s city and the birthplace of the Messiah. He tells them to report back, enlisting them as unwitting spies.
When they trick Herod and return home by a different route, Herod sends thugs to Bethlehem to slaughter every male infant and toddler.
Herod reasons, “If you have to sacrifice innocent children to protect your throne, so be it. That’s how the world works.”
It’s another Passover, but upside down. Herod, the “king of the Jews,” acts like Pharaoh, slaughtering Jewish babies.
There’s lamentation in Bethlehem as there was when the angel of death killed Egypt’s firstborn sons. But now Jewish women mourn.
All that blood, yet Herod fails anyway. An angel warns Joseph and he escapes the pogrom with Mary and Jesus. They find refuge – in Egypt of all places!
This is the topsy-turvy world Jesus is born into. Israel has turned into Egypt, while Egypt has become a safe haven for the Jewish savior.
Wise men are part of every Christmas crèche and Sunday School pageant. It’s the event that Christians commemorate every January 6, Epiphany, the “manifestation” of Christ.
We know the story, but we may miss the point.
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