When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious..”

Matthew 2: 16

Extra readings: Matthew 2: 13-18; John 6: 66

Joseph, Mary and Joseph flee the wrath of Herod. Others are not so fortunate. Herod issues "instructions to kill all the children two years old and younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding region" (Matthew 2:16).

There are actually six different Herod’s mentioned in the Bible. Which one is this? This is Herod the Great. He and his sons ruled Judea during Jesus’ life and ministry. Why was he so hostile to the news of the birth of Jesus? The Magi had referred to the baby as the one born to be king of the Jews. This would have played right in to Herod’s particular paranoia. He ruled on behalf of Rome, under Roman authority and this did not make him particularly popular with the general Jewish population, especially as his mandate from Rome was to ‘keep order’ in Judea. The Jews never accepted him as their legitimate king and this infuriated him. In order to try and be more Jewish, he refused to eat pork, but he thought nothing of murder. He constantly feared conspiracy and was completely paranoid, to the extent that he had two of his wives, three of his sons and his mother-in-law executed.

Naturally (for Herod) he wanted to make sure that this ‘king’, whom he must have feared was legitimate, would not be allowed to grow into adulthood – hence the murder of the infants he initiated.

The tale ends on a tragic note with

Rachel weeping for her children.
She refused to be consoled
because they were no more

(2:18 quoting Jer 31:15 but not exactly).

This story does not celebrate innocence, a quiet Christmas night in Bethlehem, but a tragic situation with the father, mother and child in flight for their lives and Rachel weeping for her children because they were no more. A grieving mother is the image of Christmas. A family, full of fear, crossing a border in the dead of night is the image of Christmas.

There’s a hard reality to see in Matthew’s Christmas story. There’s a hard reality to the whole Gospel. Knowing this, are you going to continue to follow Jesus? Or has it become too hard already? Do you find yourself compromising the demands of the Kingdom?


Lord Jesus, Creator of the world and of every man. How horrible that from the moment you entered the world you had made, you were hated by many. Thank you for being willing to come even though you knew you would face such opposition.  

Here’s how to do this devotional as a family

1. Prepare by selecting some videos about jealousy to watch

Some kids videos about jealousy

2. Begin by asking everyone if they have had any experiences with jealousy – either themselves being jealous or someone else being jealous of them.
3. Ask if they think jealousy is a good or a bad thing. Discuss why.
4. Explain about how jealous Herod was because he knew that Jesus was the true king and he was not. Read them the story.
5. Finish by praying and blessing each child, then allow them to open their Day 9 Advent Calendar.