You might have wondered why we had to read on past the usual stuff of nativity plays to the unpleasant bit about Herod and his slaughter of the innocents.
I had already decided on these readings for tonight before the terrible news of the school shootings in Newtown Conneticut, 10 days ago. Believe me, I thought about changing them. This year, I’ve found it hard to hear the words of Away in a manger ‘bless all the dear children in thy tender care’, without feeling a pang of pain. You might have heard the news report that said that after the tragedy, many people in Newtown were taking down their Christmas decoration, because they felt guilty celebrating Christmas.
But as tonight’s readings have made clear, Christmas is not just a sweet tale of tinselly angels and fluffy sheep – there is hardship in the story, and people abusing power, and real cruelty.
This shouldn’t surprise us – if Jesus was God come to Earth to share our human life he needed to experience all of human life – including pain and loss and even death.
There need to be unpleasant bits in the story because it’s a real story, of a real baby, born in a real way. And so it’s a story that tells us of the real presence of God in our world – in the midst of our celebrations, and when life is almost unbearably hard.
May the real life and love of God touch you and yours this Christmas. Amen.