In Thy Dark Streets Shineth
Christmas is the time when Heaven and Nature sing. And it's the time for us to reflect on the greatest gift of all-the gift of new life in Christ. We often read of the humble stable in which our Savior was born. �It was indeed a rude, unfinished place. We might think it strange for the King of Kings to be born in a lowly habitation for animals.
But how wise. In those long ago times, princes born in palaces often succumbed to pneumonia and other childhood diseases. Surrounded by mirrors, marble, and gold, those splendid palaces were invaded by cold. �He who made the stars and the beasts knew that a stable was warm and sheltering. It was the perfect place to bring a newborn babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.
The heavenly host of Angels sang Hallelujah and praised Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men. That was what brought simple shepherds to the stable. We see here the lowliest in society having the Good News preached to them before it is revealed to the high and mighty of the world. �These shepherds are the ones who must labor outside through the cold nights. They are the ones who must protect their flocks of sheep from ravening wolves. They are tough, almost hardened men -- and yet they are the ones who most need the message of new birth that is brought to them from the dark streets of the little town of Bethlehem.
Soon, the scene changes, to a royal palace. Scripture tells us that Wise Men come from the East. They have read of the coming of the Messiah. They have read of the King of the Jews who is to be born of a Virgin. They know that a Star will lead them. When they arrive in Jerusalem, these great men are received with all courtesy in the palace of Herod the Great. Surely, they think, this king who now rules over the Jews will want to join them in worshipping the Child. Their careful study of Scripture and their searching the night skies tells them this Child will be the Lord's anointed and appointed One. King Herod is well practiced in the arts of deception. Surely, he tells these Magi, he yearns to join them. If they will but locate the place where the Child lives and come back to his palace, he will join them on bended knee.
These Wise Men follow the Star and approach the place where the young child lives, protected by His mother and her husband, Joseph the Carpenter. The Magi present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Surely the Christ Child is the only child being raised in a carpenter's cottage, then or now, who receives such precious gifts. The Magi will not divulge the Child's whereabouts to Herod the King. They have been warned in a dream of Herod's treachery. They slip away without notice and return to their own country.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us "Herod was exceeding wroth." And his murderous wrath was wreaked on the thousands of Innocents, children two and under, who dwelt in the region. Herod orders them all slaughtered. But it is too late for Herod's homicidal rage to achieve his cruel design. Alerted by an Angel, Joseph has taken Mary and the infant Jesus to safety in Egypt.
We see in this timeless story the wickedness of a government that does not safeguard the smallest and most vulnerable of those who live under its rule. Instead, Herod uses his great power to search and destroy. We are meant to recognize this royal mandate as a singularly evil act whose shame is recorded forever in the Bible story.
The Flight into Egypt, too, has great meaning for us. �Our Heavenly Father might have sent a fiery chariot to spirit the infant Jesus away. He might have sent a great Fish. He might have parted the waters to let Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walk to safety, even as He did for Moses and the Children of Israel. But He did not. He sent instead a mother, her husband -- a married couple -- and a donkey. It was thus that the Savior of the World was carried to safety.
The Christmas story is a story for our time and for all time. It tells of the birth of our Savior. Its timeless elements speak as well of the sanctity of life, the protective role of marriage, and the vital place of worship in achieving the heavenly goal of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.