The weeks preceding Christmas are known in the Christian Church as Advent, In the church of my youth it was a time for singing "Joy to the world. The Lord is come," and other songs celebrating the birth of Jesus. But the Christmas story in the gospel of Matthew has a tragic side.
Matthew describes how three wise men came to King Herod in Jerusalem searching for one "born King of the Jews." The scripture says, "When Herod the king had heard [the wise men], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." What's really going on here? King Herod was basically a puppet of the Roman Empire. He served at the pleasure of the Roman governors and knew that if he displeased them he could lose his crown and, most likely, his head. Among his subjects there were many who fervently believed that God would send a Messiah who would raise up an army and, possibly with supernatural help, defeat the Romans and establish an independent Jewish state. Herod didn't want the Romans to believe that he had even the slightest sympathy for the idea of a Messiah. So what happened when Herod learned that the wise men would not return to him in Jerusalem with the whereabouts of the one "born King of the Jews."?
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. [Matt 2:16].
On September 12, 2001, Congress, with only one dissenting vote, authorized the President of the United States to use military force anywhere in the world where he determines that there are terrorists that pose a threat to the United States - and increasingly military actions involve the taking of innocent life. Most certainly, more infants have lost their lives through United States military actions under this law than were killed by King Herod.
Jesus was born into a world of militarists and terrorists. How he responded to that world is instructive for Christians today. During Watching for the Light, an Advent Retreat, (December 9-11), I'll be leading a discussion on how we who identify as Gay Christians feel called to respond to terrorism and militarism, as well as to climate change and other problems facing the world. I'll be coming from a Quaker perspective, but also from the perspective of someone who was a presenter at the Parliament of the World's Religions in 2015 and who is active in interfaith work in our local community.