This morning was our first advent service of the season at our church. We looked at Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ. You would think that all we talked about was joy. But we looked at the heart-breaking verses (2:16-18) which tell about the slaughter of infants in Jerusalem. Herod, in his fury over being ignored by the wise men, gave the horrible edict that caused the hateful action.
My heart aches when I think of all the mothers who lost their precious babies. It’s all part of the Christmas story. Not the nice part, but the fulfillment of the prophecy that Jeremiah issued centuries earlier. God knew what Herod would do; and to protect His Son, Joseph was warned in a dream to escape to Egypt with his family.
Why did God save Jesus, but allow innocent people to suffer? Well, of course, we’re glad that Joseph and Mary and Jesus escaped. But why didn’t the other parents get the word from God that would have saved their sons? Why did God allow such suffering? Isn’t that the question that still plagues mankind? The root of all suffering is sin. But God, in His sovereignty, allows the suffering that we wish He would eliminate.
Is there hope in this tragic story? There’s always hope where God is concerned. Because of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, we have hope for an eternity with Him, free from sin and suffering. In the meantime, we are assured that God is working. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
So during this season, let’s try to be sensitive to those who are suffering. There is hope to share. We don’t have a lot of answers to their questions about suffering. But we have the message of hope to share with them. God sees their tears, hears their cries, and offers peace and comfort. The Christ who was born in Bethlehem later said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
That’s the beautiful invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30. It has the power to comfort, encourage, challenge, and gird us with strength, no matter what we are going through. Aren’t you glad that the Lord understands our struggles because He experienced them by coming to earth to live and die? Do you suffer today? Do you know someone who does? How does the Christmas story speak to the problems of life? Is it not true that “Joy to the World” can outweigh any sorrow?