by Rob Furlong
About a month ago I came across a trailer advertising this year’s Christmas movie – Violent Night. Basically, the plot revolves around Santa going rogue and taking out the bad guys on Christmas Eve, using his heavy arsenal of guns and weapons. Hence the name Violent Night. (Disclaimer here – I am not recommending you see the movie – but there is a point to my mentioning it!)
Violence is not something we automatically associate with Christmas. Our minds are filled with thoughts of love, peace, and good will toward others, but violence? Certainly not!
However, if you read the account of Jesus’ birth carefully – the first Christmas – you will discover that violence is as much a part of the story as peace and love.
Matthew records that several months after the birth of Jesus, Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem seeking “He who has been born King of the Jews.”
Their arrival becomes a cause of deep concern for the local citizenry. King Herod has ruled the area with an iron fist for decades, systematically eliminating all rivals to his throne, real or imagined. An extremely insecure man, Herod was alarmed by the news the Magi brought with them and so the city collectively held its breath as they waited to see how he would respond.
Herod first ascertains what the Prophets said concerning the place of the Messiah’s birth before playing the role of charming host to the unsuspecting Magi. He elicits from them a promise that when they locate the Child, they will return to him with the details so that he too “may come and worship.”
Herod’s plan is to kill Jesus, and when the Magi do not return to him, (having been directed by God through a dream not to do so), he flies into a murderous rage and slaughters every child under two years old and younger in the Bethlehem region.
Matthew tells us Herod was “furiously angry” – his insecurity, fear and uncontrolled rage leading him to rain down grief, injustice and suffering on innocent people.
It was truly, a violent night.
This past year together, we have talked a lot about anger.
We have looked at the negative side of anger – how it can lead to destructive behaviour in relationships, resulting in grudge holding, physical and verbal abuse; how it can kill communication and how fear is the driver behind anger.
But we have also considered its positive side. Anger is a valid emotion and when properly expressed and channeled, much good can come from it. This is especially so when we practice healthy skills such as patience, a genuine desire to listen to each other and giving up thoughts of revenge by freely offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
I am very aware that for many people, Christmas is not a time of “peace, love and good will.” Rather, it is a time of deep sadness, emotional (and physical) hurt and estrangement from God and people.
Perhaps that is you, as you read this.
Whatever it is you are experiencing at this moment, Jesus can bring peace to your life.
The other side of the Christmas story is that of the silent night and this truth has been beautifully captured in the words of the old Carol:
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Jesus came to restore peace between God and people, and in their relationships with each other.
What a contrast this is to the destruction caused by Herod’s uncontrolled anger!
In the silence and awe that surrounds the birth of Jesus, God offers us peace in exchange for our anger, resentments, and fears.
He offers you His peace, freely, today.
Please, open your heart to Him this Christmas.