While it is good to focus on the heartwarming elements of the Christmas story, the Bible’s account reminds us that there is much more to the nativity than gentle shepherds and generous wise men.
The Christmas story includes a massacre.
Matthew 2 records that an insecure King Herod, attempting to kill the newborn King of the Jews, sent his soldiers to kill every child under the age of 2. Horror swept through households at the inhumanity of slaughtering thousands of innocent infants.
The Gospel of Matthew quotes the prophet Jeremiah to describe the laments of parents who lost their children. “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matthew 2:18).
This tragic story illustrates the chaotic and desperate world into which Christ was born. It was a world of oppression and suffering. The iron fist of Rome clamped down rebellion and hope alike.
Yet by choosing to quote this passage from Jeremiah, Matthew also foreshadows the hope that Christ would bring to hurting people. The original passage was written about the parents who lost their children in the captivity of Babylon. Yet in the very next verses, Jeremiah encouraged the weepers with a promise.
“Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border” (Jeremiah 31:16).
Jeremiah reminded the people that the judgment would not last forever and that God would bring restoration. The captivity would end and God’s people would return to the Promised Land. In judgment, God would remember mercy.
By quoting this passage, Matthew reminds us of a timeless truth: God is a God of restoration. “He heals the brokenhearted and sets the captives free. He makes the lame to walk again and causes the blind to see,” the old gospel song says. Christ’s coming proves this truth beyond doubt. He is the Suffering Servant who bore our sins so we could be free.
To a night of weeping, Christ brought heavenly hope. To a time of oppression, Christ brought spiritual freedom. To a people in sin, Christ brought eternal redemption.
God does not stand by and do nothing when He sees injustice, suffering and ruin. He intervenes. His masterful hand works behind the scenes to bring about His hidden purpose.
We may see suffering and chaos and ask, “Where is God in all this?” The birth of Christ illustrates that our God not only sees the suffering but is also willing to enter it to set things right.