the darker side...
It's not preached on very often because, rather than giving comfort and answers, it opens a box of questions. It doesn't fit well with "The hap-happiest season of all" or the cool Budweiser commercials where the horses are pulling people across a snow clad field for Christmas. Still, it's part of the story, and perhaps a more central part than the fact that Jesus was born in a manger.
I'm talking about that ugly passage in Matthew 2:16-23, where Herod's paranoia about the news of a new king results in his murder of all the male babies under two in the Bethlehem area. It sticks out in stark contrast to everything else, perhaps because everything else reminds us of childhood and innocence, while this story reminds us of the reality that beneath the Currier and Ives depictions, the fundamental issue surrounding Christ's coming has to do with His reign, and whether we'll let Him exercise it.
The bad news is that Herod is nothing more than a caricature of that quality in each of us: our fierce refusal to submit to God's reign. Going clear back to the garden, we've preferred our own reign, thank you very much, to God's reign. In our worst moments we'll contribute to the suffering of others so that we might enjoy excess of power, or money, or water, or oil, and when we're this way, we show ourselves to be part of Herod's family.
The good news is that Christ isn't shut out that easily. God goes to great lengths to make provision for our catastrophic failures and then continues to seek reconciliation with us, inviting us to come to Him, lay down our warring pride and every other burden, finding rest in His reign instead. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overpower it.
O Patient Lord... May the spirit of Herod be crushed in each of our hearts, so that we might rest in your reign, relinquishing our lust for control and resting instead in the confidence that your ways are life giving, be to us, and to those you bless through us. Amen