On Sunday morning we continued our advent series called “An inconvenient Christmas” with a talk about an unhinged dictator. What follows is a short summary of that talk. You can also listen to the talk or download it from our Sunday Talks page (the talks are usually available a bit later in the week).
Have you ever had an experience where you are going through something really tough in your life and you meet someone who has had the same experience as you and you immediately connect? Other people have been sympathetic and caring which is great, but that person who has had the same experience as you really knows what it is like and is a great source of help and comfort.
Right at the heart of God’s story is Jesus, who lived as a human being, who experienced real life and all its joys and sorrows and because of that really understands what it is like to be us.
Most of us will recognise the part of the Christmas story we are looking at today. It concerns the arrival of the Magi - sometimes called wise men or kings. You can read that story in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life chapter 2 verses 1 to 16. You can read that here.
We usually stop at verse 12 with the Magi leaving gifts and then heading back to their home land. But if we read on to verse 16 we discover that the Christmas story begins at a time where Israel was being ruled by an unhinged dictator. When Herod hears about the baby Jesus, out of fear and jealousy and rage he begins a process of genocide, ordering that all boys under 2 years of age be murdered. An unhinged dictator brings unimaginable suffering to families. A great many people wept and mourned as their children were taken away and killed and there was no answer that you could have given those people that would have comforted them.
Sometimes we don’t have answers to the questions caused by life’s biggest injustices. We have to be honest enough to say we don’t know. We don’t know why these things happen, why God doesn’t seem to intervene and why injustice seems to prevail. But what we do know is that in the middle of injustice there is hope. In the midst of this story there is hope. The Magi are warned by God not to report to Herod and Joseph is warned to escape.
The Christmas story reminds us that God has not deserted us, in fact God has suffered right alongside us. Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room for his family anywhere else…he was homeless. He spent his first years as a refugee, an immigrant in a foreign land, his family had fled in fear of their lives, left everything behind.
God was with us, in human flesh, vulnerable and under threat. He understands what it is like to experience injustice and suffering. He can stand alongside us and say I know what it is like. We can know that God is with us, the light of the world, who has stepped down even into the deepest, darkest circumstances of our world and brings us hope.
Questions to reflect on (on your own or in your small group):
Have you had that experience when life is tough of talking to someone who really knows what it is you are going through? How was that different from someone who didn’t really know what it is like?
When you look around our world and see the evil and unhinged dictators who continue to rule in some countries, how does it make you feel? What can we do about it?
Why do you think God chose the humblest of circumstances in which to send his son?
What kinds of things did Jesus experience in his life which mean he understands the tough times in our lives?
Why do you think Herod commanded those babies to be killed? Do you see the same traits in some of those dictators in our world?
How does God bring hope even in that awful situation?
- How does it make you feel to know that God has suffered and really knows what it is like to suffer? How can that help you and others who are suffering?