Malankara World

 

     A Wonderful Night: An Interpretation of Christmas

By James H. Snowden


XVI. An Impotent Destroyer

Herod took swift and thorough measures, as he thought, to crush his new rival. He called the priests into his counsel and demanded to know where the Christ should be born. Too often has the priest been subject to the beck and call of the king. Bad men will use the church for their own evil purposes when they can, and will then grow condescending and complaisant towards the minister and liberal in their gifts. We must be ready to receive and help any man, but we must beware of men that push their way into the church for sinister ends. The church is no man’s tool, and when it is thus prostituted its power and glory are gone.

The priests knew their Bibles and, in answer to Herod’s question, put their finger on the very text and town. They knew where Christ was to be born, but they did not know Christ when he was born. We may have an exhaustive knowledge of the letter of the Bible and yet not know its spirit; we may know many things about Christ and yet not know Christ.

Herod, having gained knowledge of Christ, immediately turned it against Christ. He sent searchers after the child, falsely and wickedly pretending that he also wanted to come and worship him. There is no truth, or means of good, or gift of God so holy and blessed that men will not turn it to evil ends. Afterward Herod, in blind but impotent rage, sent soldiers and thrust a sword through every cradle in Bethlehem; but the Child, sheathed in omnipotence, had escaped, and Herod could sooner have crushed the earth flat than have hurt a hair of his head.

Herod was the forerunner of a long line of enemies who have endeavored to kill this Child. Pagan Rome poured the fires of ten dreadful persecutions on the heads of his followers, but they could not extinguish his name in fire and blood. Often have the fires of martyrdom been kindled around his disciples, but they have stood faithful to him. Skeptical scholarship has tried to reduce his gospel to a fable and even to resolve Jesus himself into a myth, but as soon could it dissolve the rocky ledge of Bethlehem into vapor and cloud. And did not Voltaire prophecy in 1760 that ere the end of the eighteenth century Christianity would disappear from the earth? Many are the authors and books that have thought to make an end of Jesus, but he still lives the same yesterday and to-day. And does not unbelief and unfaithfulness in our hearts also try to strangle this Child? Every evil thought we cherish and every evil deed we do are so many swords we thrust into his cradle. Herod has a long and numerous progeny, and we may find them close to our own door and even in our own hearts.

The star appears to have been invisible to the wise men while they were in Jerusalem—in that guilty city, which in its pride thought it had a monopoly of divine favor, the stars of faith were eclipsed by a worldly spirit—but when they emerged from the city the star once more led them on and stood over where the young Child was. God has put many stars in our sky to lead us on to Christ. The stars themselves are as vocal with divine messages as though every one of them were a golden bell hung in the dome of the night to ring out some good news from God. The Bible is a great constellation in which every promise and precept is a star, and all its stars stand over Christ. All the Christian centuries are starred with events and achievements that point to Christ as King.

 

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