A Bloody Christmas
There are so many add-ons to the Christmas story, it's hard to tell what's real and what's make-believe. I'm not talking about Santa, Frosty, or Rudolf. Rather, I'm referring to the ways we have spiced up the story of Jesus' birth, as if it were a rather boring story without our embellishments.
Of course, there are the obvious fictive parts that everyone recognizes, like there was no drummer boy, talking donkey, or even "three kings" from the orient. Other additions sneak in without our noticing: there was no stable, no inn keeper, no angels singing (they chant), no magi visiting the baby in the manger (every year, when my wife would bring out the nativity scenes, my children would hear their father rattle on and on about how "wrong" the ideallic scene really is). But, what really bothers me are the parts we ignore, especially Matthew's version of the Christmas story, where he relates the story of how Joseph and Mary became refugees because a paranoid King ordered genocide for Bethlehem.
I've never seen that scene recreated during a Christmas play. Can you imagine? Herodian soldiers enter stage right, bearing swords, and slaughtering all the two-years on the Bethlehem stage. Parents would shriek in horror, "Don't look, Johnny. I don't know what they're trying to do up there. Never seen the like."
But, there it is in Matthew's story. In all of its glory. And, we turn our eyes away from the tragedy because everyone knows Christmas is about warm feelings, nostalgic recollections, and serenity in the midst of chaos (often a chaos of our own creation).
And yet, somehow I find myself drawn to Matthew's story. Not because I have some peculiar desire for dwelling on the macabre realities of life. No, somehow I find hope knowing that, even when Jesus was born, there were people in Bethlehem screaming, "Where is God?" Rachel mourning for her children.
Mary probably grieved over the news down in Egypt. After all, these women were a part of their little community; friends who shared stories and daily chores. Their children played together. Such news may have even compelled Mary to ask the same question in the face of such human suffering, "God, where are you?"
He's a vulnerable baby, hiding out in Egypt, waiting for a wicked king to die.
For some reason, I love that part of the story that nobody tells.