Babies are a threat. Any parent knows that. My kids came along two decades ago and turned my world upside down. They still do. I never knew how much love, fear, anger, sadness or joy I could experience as a parent. The fact that these emotions come because of little bundles of flesh is quite remarkable. When these bundles of flesh become bigger and older, the emotions do not diminish. Babies are a threat.
We can’t get too cozy with the Christmas story. The sentimental notions that surround community nativity scenes or Sunday School Christmas pageants need to be dashed against the realities found in this text. As NT Wright notes: “Banish all thoughts of peaceful Christmas scenes. Before the Prince of Peace had learned to walk and talk, he was a homeless refugee, with a price on his head” (Matthew for Everyone Part 1, p. 14).
Jesus comes into the world and there is a violent clash. Egotistical, power hungry, murderous hearted Herod knows, to some degree, of the threat of this baby. He doesn’t understand the nature of this emerging alternative kingdom, but he does know that it must be dealt with, squashed, severely. So mothers and fathers weep and rage at the murder of innocent children, and the Holy Family runs to Egypt to save the life of their child. Babies. We see similarities with the infant Moses centuries before in Egypt.
In Jesus, God invaded out world in a new way. He came into a world that suffered violence and injustice. He did not come in peace and comfort. This was no easy life. (NT Wright, p. 14). This invasion is very concrete—Bethlehem, Ramah, Egypt, Nazareth. The three quotes from the Hebrew Bible all contain names of places—real, concrete places. These named places also remind the reader of grand biblical themes—exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, the covenant of God with his people, the emergence of a new Israel in Jesus, and God’s provision for his people. God is doing a new thing—through a baby! Watch out.
Baby Jesus was a threat to the Roman Empire. We live in the midst of an Empire today. The consumerist aspects of that Empire are evident at this time of year. But a baby comes into the world and threatens to upset the Empire. This Jesus offers justice, peace and blessing in this world.
Watch out for the baby of Christmas. We need to beware…more than that, we need to respond to this threatening baby. Maybe our response should be similar to what the Advent Conspiracy advocates—worship more, spend less, give more, love all (www.adventconspiracy.org). Simple but subversive—like a baby.
In this marvelous season—the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Jesus. Merry Christmas, and rich blessings to all of you.