"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'" Luke 2:8-14
Ahhh, the Christmas story. How many times have you sat in church on a Christmas morning or at a Christmas Eve service and heard this wondrous, familiar scripture read? It sends chills down our spine and gives us the warm fuzzies as we hear of the promise fulfilled of our prophesied Savior for this world and for us. And I believe, without doubt, that our reaction should be just that. It's the event around which the entire history of man revolves.
Christmas is also a time of fond memories for many. Family gatherings, the excitement of the children, Christmas parties, Christmas lights, and Christmas displays--the nativity scene, caroling, the giving and receiving of gifts. And again, I believe, those memories should be good. It's a wondrous time of the year.
However, there's another side to this Christmas story, one that is rarely talked about:
"When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'" Matthew 2:16-18
I've read numerous thoughts from numerous different theologians on this particular passage of Scripture. Many Bible commentaries ignore verse 16 completely! I've read estimates as low as 20 infants being slain and a suggestion that the number could be as high as 14,000 (though that number is always held highly questionable). However, whatever the true number was, it's a heinous and horrible event in human history; and is a very real part of the Christmas story. Babies were killed. Mothers and father's hearts were broken.
So why do I feel the need to bring this horrible reality into your Christmas season? Because, unfortunately, many of the young people we meet with have Christmas memories more resembling the Matthew story than the Luke narrative. It's incredibly hard to remember at times that the population we are working with are KIDS. Yes, they are locked up. Yes, the majority are guilty. Yes, they are reaping what they've sown. But could any one of us deny that if we had been raised in similar circumstances to most of these kids that we would be any different?
This Christmas season I would humbly ask that if your Christmas memories are more like the Luke Narrative than the Matthew story, help us reach these kids so that maybe some day their children's memories might be like yours. Help us show them there is a better way. Help us to teach them that for them "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." It's their, and our, only hope.
Please consider an end of the year gift for LifeQuest. We are blessed to be a blessing. I wish for you and your family the most blessed Christmas season!