Advent Devotional: Week Four - Wednesday

Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:16-18 (HCSB)

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

A voice was heard in Ramah,

weeping, and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children;

and she refused to be consoled,

because they were no more.

The story of Herod and the infants of Bethlehem is a horrific episode of the birth narrative that is almost universally absent from Sunday school accounts of the story. Yet it is fundamental to understanding the hope that is present in Jesus’ birth. Here is one who will finally lead his people from slavery and persecution to the Promised Land. God wants to show that this infant born in a manger is uniting himself to the history of God’s struggling people.

The story, in itself, casts shadows of Pharaoh’s slaughter of the Israelite children in Egypt (Exodus 1:22), and Matthew helps us remember the children of Rachel who were killed by the Babylonians when they plundered Israel into exile (Jeremiah 31:15-17). Yet even in Rachel’s inconsolable grief, God promises future hope for his child Israel in his son Jesus.

In Herod we see an evil king whose rule and power is threatened by one who is divinely appointed to rule. Jesus is the king who will bring a new relationship between God and man and will lead his people to true salvation and victory. In the face of insurmountable evil and sorrow, we see God working his purposes to heal, restore, and renew hope, a hope that will be ultimately secured and anchored in the cross and resurrection. As you feel the sorrow present in evil and suffering, grieve. But grieve with hope, for a new day has dawned.

Prayer: Dear Father, we have all wept in the stark reality of evil and suffering in this world. We open our eyes daily to see a world still so broken from sin. Continue to give us joy and hope rooted in a savior who shared in the world’s tragedy and humanity. Soften our hard hearts with the songs of the angels and the outpouring of God’s Spirit. And continue to bring the blessings of your kingdom throughout the whole world.

Advent Singing: "Who is This?"

Who is this so weak and helpless, child of lowly Hebrew maid, rudely in a stable sheltered, coldly in a manger laid? 'Tis the Lord of all creation, who this wondrous path has trod; he is God from everlasting, and to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows, walking sadly life's hard way, homeless, weary, sighing, weeping over sin and Satan's sway? 'Tis our God, our glorious Savior, who above the starry sky now for us a place preparing, where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold him shedding drops of blood upon the ground! Who is this, despised, rejected, mocked, insulted, beaten, bound? 'Tis our God, who gifts and graces on his church is pouring down; who shall smite in holy vengeance all his foes beneath his throne.

Who is this that hangs there dying while the rude world scoffs and scorns, numbered with the malefactors, torn with nails, and crowned with thorns? 'Tis the God who lives forever 'mid the shining ones on high, in the glorious golden city, reigning everlastingly.

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