Malankara World

Christmas Sermon - The Birthday of Jesus

Christmas Message - Where Do You Belong?

by Rev. Fr. K. K. John, Philadelphia

"When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." Mat 2:3.

It seems as though a contradiction that Herod and all Jerusalem was troubled hearing the birth of a King of the Jews while Angel said, "Birth of Savior, who is Christ the Lord is 'Good tidings of great joy which will be for all the people'" Luke 2: 10, 11.

Jews, as a whole, were eagerly waiting for the advent of Messiah. There were numerous prophesies concerning the coming of Messiah:

"The Scepter shall not depart from Judah until Sheloh, Messiah come," Gen 49:10,
"God will raise for you a Prophet," Deut 18:15,
"A Star shall come out of Jacob," Num 24:17,
"He will be born of a Virgin," Isa 7:14, and
"He will be born in Bethlehem" Micah 5:2.

Historically, God delivered Jews from enemies and oppressors at the height of their suffering; the simple principle being, God allowed them to suffer when they fell to sin and delivered them when they repented and turned to God. God through Moses delivered them from the Egyptian bondage, through Esther delivered them from the evil designs of Haman, through King Cyrus freed them from Babylonian Captivity and in short God raised Judges, Prophets and Kings in the past. Roman yoke was so hard that they eagerly yearned for a deliverer. Despite all these, when it happened, all, from king to vassal, failed to recognize Redeemer. Angels, the Shepherds, Joseph the Just and betrothed husband of Mary and nature were happy seeing and hearing the news of Birth of Savior. And yet Herod, the king was not only unhappy but deeply troubled. His first emotional reaction was insecurity; fear of losing his power and authority.

Herod reigned in Jerusalem 36 years from BC 40 to 04. He is often mentioned as 'Herod, the Great,' not because of his noble character, but because he succeeded to crush various rebellions against Rome; Rome was pleased and offered him the title, 'King of the Jews,' and free hand to deal with Jews as he wished. He was a great builder; rebuilt the magnificent Jerusalem Temple to attract Jewish support. But as regards to his innate suspicion on others he had no parallel.

In reality there was no reason for Herod's worry. He was an old man and he was sure that he would not survive to see the newborn infant growing up to manhood and take over his regime. What then could be the reasons for his agony? 'Troubled' is a sign of wickedness, Is 57:20. Exploring reasons for Herod's worry itself is troubling. Was it because he was ready to make his wife or children to succeed him? No chance; he never had a filial connection with any of his family members. He murdered his wife Mariamne and three of own sons, Antipater, Alexander and Aristobulus for the simple reason of doubt. When the news of the murder reached Rome, it is said, Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar remarked, "It is safer to be Herod's pigs than Herod's sons."

Logically, that Herod was mindful to continue his line, cannot not be ruled out. Herod could not imagine another Jew becoming a king in his stead. One of the horror stories prove his bitterly warped character. Toward the end of his life, he changed his residence to Jericho, which was then the most beautiful of all other cities, he arrested distinguished citizens of Jerusalem on concocted charges and imprisoned them and ordered to execute them at the very moment he died; saying, "he was sure no one would shed a drop of tear at his death; at least some would shed tears if these people died."

Jews despised him for three reasons:

(1) Herod was a half-Jew and half-Idumaean (Edomite). Jews considered themselves of high blood and only people acceptable to God, all else being of less dignity; no Jew could consider a half-Idumean, a gentile at par with them.
(2) He was agent of Rome. He betrayed Jewish interests to please Caesar. He became King through diplomacy and cunningness against the wish of Jews and
(3) he was very cruel. He committed mass-murders and many atrocities against Jews to please Rome and retain the position.

Suspicion was his inherent frailty and reason for all cruelties. There are many stories of his cruelty. Out of fear of losing his position he massacred Jews especially, annihilated Synagogue members. For this reason he had to summon chief priests and scribes when the wise men informed the birth of a King. So naturally Herod, a worldly minded 'natural man' could not discern spiritual things, 1Cor 2:14; that the kingdom of the new born is not of this world, John 18:36.

The news that 'King of the Jews born' was not good tidings of great joy for Herod. Suspicion, jealousy, insecurity feeling, rage and violence are obsessions of selfish/immoral people. Herod ordered to kill all infants below two years. Herod is not alone; all power-mongers are under the fatal grip of fear of losing position of authority and the immediate reaction would be killing all those who dissent; genocide is a sport for them. French Revolutionaries, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein Gaddafi, etc of recent memory butchered millions of fellowmen only to stay in power. All of them met shameful end. Great travesty is that power is so enticing that it is blind to justice; people in authority fail to learn from the history and it repeats!

Why 'all Jerusalem was troubled?' a glimpse of Herod's past narrated above answers why 'all Jerusalem was troubled.' At least some affluent people, including Jews who supported Rome and Herod, were in the same predicament as Herod because they wanted not to give up their privileges. The chief priests and scribes affirmed the prophecy (Micah 5:2) regarding the coming Messiah, the anointed One, from Bethlehem but failed to expound the spiritual nature of the prophecy to Herod. They also considered Messiah a threat to their evil life-style and easy way out was to ignore. The fact even today is that people, so called Christian faithful included, though convinced of the truth opt to hate or ignore when it interferes with personal ambitions and sinful indulgences.

May the reader self-reflect, where he/she belong to:

(1) troubled Herod,
(2) all Jerusalem,
(3) chief-priests and Scribes, who miserably failed,
(4) the Angel, who proclaimed the Good News to the lowly and down-trodden (Evangelization),
(5) Heavenly hosts, who sang praises (submission and adoration),
(6) Shepherds, who believed the angel without reasoning, went and saw Jesus (initiative to experience Christ),
(7) the Nature which cooperated (Silent Night- peace of mind),
(8) the Gentile wise men from afar, who acknowledged the infant as King, Priest and Prophet; worshipped Him with costly presents? Worship in Truth and Spirit involves physical exertion, material cost, time and dedication.

Many of us lead a troubled and anxiety filled life for various reasons; sickness, terminal illness, loneliness, misbehavior of children, uncaring parents, social disorder, absence of self-esteem, poverty, unemployment, family feud, divorce and separation, etc. In a way these are inevitable; but lion share of people are deeply troubled spending sleepless nights due to uncontrollable pursuit for wealth, position, power, worldly pleasures, jealousy, wrong priorities, hard heartedness, absence of concern for others, etc.

A true Christian is not the one who lives according to his/her own whims and fancies but the one, who lives Christ-like. Mere interest in certain rituals and obedience to a system or hierarchy profits none; one must reflect Christian virtues and that is hardest of all. One who desires peace of mind, let him come to Christ; for, He is Prince of Peace, Is 9:6. He is our peace, Eph 2:14; no other name under heaven can give us enduring peace.

May this Christmas be an eye-opener; what factors are causing us 'trouble.' Wicked people get troubled when virtues increase. But as darkness cannot exist when sun shines evil cannot triumph over virtues. A Christian is called to shine the glory of God.

"May the Lord Bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace" Num 6:24-26.

My family and I wish you all a very happy Christmas; a happy and prosperous New Year.

See Also:

Sermon for Christmas Day by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ who is the son of God and savior of all people. With the birth of Jesus Christ, Christianity essentially begins. Thus, Christmas also celebrates the beginning of Christianity.

What are we searching for? by H.G. Yuhanon Mor Meletius
This was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of humanity guided by God. God initiated the history of the world in creation hoping that it will steadily progress in the manner God wanted it to be. But human, with his greed, set the pace in a distorted direction. What God wanted was a history of humans in participation with God.

Devotional Thoughts for Christmas Day by Jose Kurian Puliyeril
From the Holy Scriptures we learn that the humanity as a whole from the time of the first parents had been in the expectation of the Savior and at the time of incarnation of our Lord and Savior, they had an expectation about a Ruler who might be the King of Israel.


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