Another character who missed that first Christmas was Herod, the Roman appointed ruler of the Jews who ordered the tax collection that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, the city of David and their ancestral roots.
Herod was a fearsome character. He was not a Jew, but an Edomite who was married to Marianne, heiress to the Hasmonean family. She was only one of ten wives and the mother of at least two of his twelve children. Herod is credited with some seemingly puzzling acts of benevolence. In the famine of 25BC, he melted down some of his golden treasures to buy food for the poor and gave back some of the tax money. He built recreational structures and helped with reconstruction of the temple as well as embellishing the cities of Beirut, Damascus, Rhodes, Tyre, and Sidon. As a result, he was given the title of ‘King of the Jews’ by Caesar Augustus and the Roman Senate. This welcome fame does provide motive for his benevolence as well as for his fear of loss when the wise men from the East came searching for the Baby King of the Jews, whose ‘star’ they were following.
Herod became ruthless. Not only did he order the mass murder of all the Jewish boys up through two years of age who were living in or near Bethlehem, but he also had his Jewish wife, Mary Anne, and her sons executed. In fact, just before he died, Herod imprisoned many distinguished citizens of Jerusalem and ordered that they be slaughtered the moment he died, to insure weeping at his death. He said, “The people will not weep when I die; and I want them weeping, even if they weep over someone else.”
Not only did Herod miss Christmas; he tried to kill the rightful King for fear that he risked losing his throne and title.
Many people still miss the heart of Christmas because they see Jesus as a threat! They may call Him a great teacher and even be willing to add Him to their lives in a minor sense, but not if He insists on being their King! This threatens their Self-determination of their activities, goals, and their being the “master of their own fate and captain of their own souls.” (Invictus)
Read again Matthew’s account of Herod’s awful reign of terror in Chapter two of his Gospel and renew your commitment to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!