Let’s talk Christmas or as some people call it, the annual retelling of the greatest children story ever written. Christmas movies, Christmas songs. Oh, and Christmas Nativity plays, we’ve all been a shepherd or a sheep but not many festive productions spend too much time on Herod the Great, a manipulative dictator desperately holding onto power at any cost. The Bible describes the Christmas adventure of a group of wise men captivated by a star deep in the eastern sky who embark on a journey to find a newborn king. It takes them to Jerusalem and their first stop is the fortified royal residence, the most logical place to find a king. Well they do find a king but a very different kind of king.
Herod the Great was the Roman appointed sovereign of Judea at the time of Christ's birth and Bethlehem was within his jurisdiction. Now, it seems that the old man is pretty keen on remaining the only king so the news that these wise men have come in search of a new king is enough to make him choke on his Turkey dinner. His first move is to summon his own wise men to give him the low down on what the old book has to say. Apparently, these particular wise men know what the ancient prophecies foretell and, sure enough, they speak of a special baby being born in Bethlehem. In fact, a lot more than special, he is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Trying desperately to remember everything he’s learned in the anger management classes, Herod releases the original wise men to complete their journey to Bethlehem nine miles down the road where the guiding star seems to have stopped above a stable of all places. Let’s face it, a shockingly inappropriate setting for a child to be born, especially this child.
Jesus side steps the red carpet and the private hospital for a filthy shed full of livestock in the backyard of a budget hotel off the beaten track, it’s a taste of things to come. Thirty years later Jesus would continually be found alongside the lost, the least and the last. People always looked for Jesus in the wrong place and they still do. Back in Jerusalem, Herod initiates a sickening act of genocide in an attempt to snare Jesus. This maniac might be called King Herod the Great, but there's not much going on here in the way of greatness. What is it about Jesus that makes powerful people so angry, so, petrified of what his love will do to them. But his murderous plan is foiled. The wise men are warned in a divine dream about his intentions and they have created a diversion allowing Mary, Joseph and Jesus to slip through the net. The course of human history has now changed, the God of Heaven has stepped through the veil of eternity in the shape of his son to live as one of us.
The tale of two kings, the one who rules with intimidation from a powerful epicentre called Jerusalem and the one who is born in a forgotten backwater called Bethlehem who is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords and the Saviour of the World. They couldn’t be more different. There’s also two sets of wise men. The ones who leave power behind and follow a star to find a king and the ones who are summoned by a king who leaves reason behind because thinking he's the star. Search for the true meaning of Christmas this year, follow the right star and it will lead you to the right place and the right king.