Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Advent 2016

King Herod


            Herod began his political career at approximately age 25 when he was appointed governor of Galilee by his father.  Herod was a schemer who took advantage of Roman political unrest to claw his way to the top.  Switching his allegiance from one Roman official to another at the opportune moment, Herod was ultimately appointed King of Judea by the Roman Senate at approximately age 33.  As a result, the Roman Empire expected King Herod to support its interests while his Jewish subjects rejected Rome's right to choose their king.  Thus King Herod made every attempt to please Rome and control the Jews.  King Herod conducted massive building campaigns and huge tax assessments.  King Herod also maintained 2,000 soldiers as his personal bodyguards who prohibited protests and removed opponents by force.

            Despite skill as a politician, Herod was insecure and fearful.  He was constantly securing his position through any means, including violence.  Herod killed multiple relatives, among them several wives and two sons.  So when Herod learns from the magi of the birth of the King of the Jews, he immediately plots the elimination of this threat  (see Matthew 2.1-16).  In this way, Herod is the Scrooge of the biblical Christmas past:  he wanted to end the joyous reign of Jesus even before it began.

            Advent, the church season preceding Christmas, is meant to be a time for personal reflection and confession.  We are invited during this season to explore our openness to the reign of Jesus over our lives.  So how much are we like Herod?  Are we scheming our way to the top?  Do we switch our personal allegiance from one person to another to advance ourselves?  Do we attempt to please some people and control others?  Are we insecure and fearful?  Do we use any means to eliminate threats in our lives?  Are we a Scrooge of Christmas present?  Do we oppose the reign of Jesus in our lives?

            Repent!  Believe in the Christ Child!  Rejoice!  Jesus is the true king!  During this season of Advent, let us open our hearts and lives to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  When Jesus rules our lives, he leads us beyond scheming, above advancing ourselves, past controlling others, into the security of God's eternal love and a life that knows no fear.  Our Advent challenge is to allow the babe of Bethlehem to eliminate our need to be a Scrooge like Herod.  Our Christmas joy is to follow the example of the magi worshipping Christ and presenting the child our gifts of honor and respect.  O come, let us adore him!

            And that's the way it was...and is...and shall that little town of Bethlehem...and in our personal lives.


-- Rick Sebastian



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