(Originally posted December 23, 2016)
One of the world’s great superpowers invaded and occupied a much smaller nation in the Middle East. Before it was all over, the occupation would result in the deaths of thousands of people, widescale religious oppression, and the destruction of some of the world’s most precious historical and religious sites.
After some sectarian violence within the occupied country, a local strongman emerged victorious. He made a deal with the occupying power that left him in control. In return, he helped to subjugate his own people as a means of consolidating his power. He was described as an “evil genius” who was “prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition.” One of his most effective techniques was to murder the religious leaders to whom many of the local people looked for guidance. Periodically, there was sporadic fighting to overthrow the occupiers, but these uprisings were always put down by the superpower’s superior military, aided by the strongman’s secret police and security apparatus.
Both the strongman and the superpower imposed exorbitant taxes on the occupied country, and in the process impoverished the local people. They established a “registry,” and drove millions of people from their homes, forcing families to live in the open without adequate shelter.
Over time, the strongman became paranoid. Fearing a coup, he began to kill anyone he thought might be a threat to his power, including his wife and three of his own sons. Ultimately, he embarked on a campaign of genocide, murdering unknown numbers of people. Refugees fled the massacres, abandoning their homes, and fleeing into other Middle Eastern countries.
The superpower was Rome.
The occupied nation was Judea.
The strongman was Herod the Great.
And one of those refugees, I claim as my savior.
Merry Christmas. Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.