The Christmas story contains a villain and it isn’t Ebenezer Scrooge. Naturally, we focus on the angels, the extraordinary star, the sweet baby. But in the midst of all this lurks a villain: King Herod.
King Herod the… um… Great.
Or so he said. If he felt anyone was a threat to his power he had them slaughtered—including his wife, her mother, and several of his own sons. In fact, Augustus Caesar said it would be better to be Herod’s pig than his son! Ouch. King Herod the Paranoid Tyrant is more like it. He was all about control. Having it, exerting it, and holding on to it. Herod was a man of power, and he wanted to stay that way by any and all means necessary.
So why in the world would he feel threatened by a tiny newborn?
He’d heard about the prophecies concerning the birth of Christ, and this alarmed him. So when the scholarly astronomers from the east arrived (aka the Magi) and told Herod they’d been charting stars to find the newborn king of the Jews so they could worship Him, King Herod the Great Big Liar said, “Oh yeah, Me too!”
Fortunately these were wise guys. They found Jesus, presented gifts—not bottles or rattles or diapers or clothes or toys—but gifts truly befitting a king, and worshiped him. And then God warned them in a dream to get out of there. Don’t go back to Herod, just scoot, and take the long route home. Which, when he realized he’d been left in the dust, sent Herod off the deep end. How dare they? So he takes matters in his own hands and makes this manic, monstrous mandate: to kill every Jewish baby boy under the age of two. God warned Joseph in a dream as well: Get up! Take your family and go to Egypt! And so baby Jesus escaped.
This was no ordinary baby.
But did this newborn really pose such a threat? Yes and no. Not to Herod’s earthly kingship maybe, but to something greater: his soul.
Who will reign?
From time to time, we all have a little king herod within us who runs rampant screaming, “No! and Mine! And ME ME ME!” Ugly little brute. We all have control issues that manifest themselves in varying degrees and ways; we all want things our way. And we simply can’t stomp out that little beastly king on our own. Good news—that’s why Jesus came. Because we need help. We need saving, from ourselves.
Who will reign?
Surrendering to Jesus means surrendering control and that can sometimes seem impossible. (You want me to do what? You want me to go where? You want me to forgive who? You want me to love how?) Yes, blessing following but sometimes the blessing is a long time coming, and doesn’t always look how we expected.
The crazy irony is that surrender brings freedom. Attempting to manipulate a situation that is beyond our control leaves us feeling frustrated, anxious, and angry. When I open my hand and relinquish control (that I never had anyway) to the Lord, whose ways and thoughts are higher than my own, who loves me and wants what’s best for me, I find joy. I find peace. In the height of the child’s tantrum, sometimes the best thing a parent can do is wrap their arms around that little kicking brute and love them. Sometimes anger melts into genuine grief, or fear, in the arms of a loving parent.
Don’t let that little kicking king reign. Let the King of Kings step in and love you down to size, love you into quietness, love you into peace.