This Christmas, as images of wise men and shepherds and Mary and Joseph and animals and baby Jesus cover our refrigerators with all the familiar greetings of the season, what strikes me is all the people who aren’t part of the Christmas Story.
No doubt you’ve heard sermons on the unlikely cast of characters who found themselves in the thick of God’s arrival on earth. Lowly shepherds who were serenaded by angels, wise men from faraway lands, and, of course, young Joseph, and his pregnant-out-of-wedlock wife, Mary.
But what about all those who weren’t there but could have been or maybe should have been?
The real mystery of the first Christmas is how people who were longing, praying, hoping, looking for the Messiah missed Him.
Top on the list for me is Herod. Here’s a guy who hears about the star and all the prophecies about where the Messiah was to be born and yet instead of being remotely glad becomes insanely insecure…and then brutally murderous.
So, who was Herod?
- His father was a weak, but brilliantly manipulative king and high
- When his brother took power from him, he eventually sought help from
Rome, the rising power in the East. Each Roman leader—culminating with the
great Julius Caesar—gave Herod’s father the sacred and respected role among
Jews as High Priest.
- As part of his father’s ambitious plans, Herod was made governor of
Galilee at only 25.
- Herod impressed Roman rulers with the way he collected taxes and
suppressed revolts—two things Rome valued highly.
- When Cassius and Brutus murdered Julius Caesar, they allied with
Herod, giving him a larger governorship, knowing that he could generate revenue
for them until they killed Antony and Octavian. But when Cassius was defeated
by Antony, Herod aligned himself with Antony and Octavian, instead, allowing
them and the Roman senate to anoint him “King of Judea.”
- Through a strategic marriage and a display of brutal betrayals and
murders, Herod finally became “King of the Jews.”
- During the later period of his reign, around the time of Christ’s birth, Herod wrote six wills, changing the succession plan. He had 10 wives who each had sons that they wanted to be the next King, but Herod was determined to script the outcome.