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Monday, January 6, 2014

Today’s Reading | Matthew 2:1–12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

    ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
        are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
    for from you shall come a ruler
        who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (NRSV)


So you’re Herod, sitting in your palace eating figs. And these three guys come in, bringing valuable gifts, wanting to see the newborn king-to-be. They’re certain that this king has been born—there is this big star in the sky—and making the natural assumption that one king fathers the next, they’ve come to the palace. The only problem is, your wife hasn’t had a baby.

Talk about awkward. Kind of makes you glad you’re not Herod.

Now Herod is no dummy. He’s seen that big star, and he does a little metaphysical math, and to him, it adds up to the birth of the Messiah. Checking with his people (guys like Herod have always had people), he comes up with Bethlehem as the birthplace.

Thinking on the fly, he tells the visitors where to go and to come back and tell him where to find the baby so he can “go and pay him homage,” which of course means “have my soldiers take care of this problem.” Yeah—the king of Judea thinks he’s going to put out a hit on the Messiah. And, because he’s never read a detective novel, he doesn’t have the three guys followed. They can do the political math, and it doesn’t hurt when they all have the same dream, saying “That thing you’re thinking? Yeah.”

So Herod’s plan falls apart, and he overreacts in an awful way. But that fails, too, because his target has relocated—assisted no doubt by gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

To the powerful, the worst thing that can happen is to lose power, and they will do anything—inflict any pain, threaten any destruction—rather than lose it. That desperation doesn’t make them strong or smart. It makes them weak.

Thank God that the one person with real power was willing to set it aside when we needed him to do exactly that.


Lord, remind me that the greatest weakness is the need for power, and the greatest strength is the willingness to surrender that need to you. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon,
Coordinator of Fine Arts

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