Coventry Carol

Often in our excitement and joy over Christmas we forget the pain and trouble that was also present. Roman occupation and control, corruption throughout the priesthood, a Jewish “king” who selfishly and cruelly ruled, poor sold into slavery, constant fear…this was the world that welcomed baby Jesus.

Even though it is possibly a span of about two years from the birth of Christ to the visit of the magi, it is still considered part of the Christmas story. And why not? There journey began at his birth. But, we often leave off the terrible deeds of a man called Herod. Yet, his actions are woven together with the visit of the wisemen.


Herod was a man plagued by fear. He killed his own children because he was afraid they would one day rise up against him and claim his throne. Power was what pleased him and he was terrified of losing it. This is the man the magi approached asking if he knew about the child born “King of the Jews.” It probably infuriated Herod all the more when the wisemen acknowledged they had come from afar to worship this child.

Herod, known for his rages, sent out a decree that all male children 2 and younger were to be slaughtered. I can’t imagine the cries of terror and grief that rose from Bethlehem that day. What kind of monster could do such a thing? Yet, Herod was only protecting himself, his position, his power, and in a twisted way, his family’s future.

As we look at this dark part of the Christmas story, we wonder, “Where is God?” Why didn’t He stop this massacre?” I don’t have an answer. Maybe word was sent out and people refused to listen like in the days of Noah. Maybe He was just letting the natural order of a sinful world take place. I don’t know. I do know that God dislikes it when children are hurt and abused, so His anger must have burned against Herod and his foot soldiers.

Looking at Herod and the Magi, I see choices. Herod and the Wisemen were shown the same information, the same truth, but their responses were completely opposite. The Magi recognized Jesus for who He was. They sought Him, they adored Him, they worshipped Him. Herod saw the Christ child as competition, someone who might win the hearts of the people, someone who might require change in Herod’s life. He made the decision to reject Jesus and dire consequences followed.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay
Lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay

O sisters too, how may we do?
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
By, by, lully, lullay

Herod the king in his raging
Charged, he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All children young to slay

Then woe is me, poor child for thee
And ever mourn and say
For thy parting nor say nor sing
By, by, lully, lullay

You can’t help but feel the sorrow in this lullaby. But God did not come to leave us in sorrow and despair. Where ever there is great need, this I know, God is there. He doesn’t abandon His people. As long as there is life on this planet, sin and destruction will rule. But, there is hope. Peace with God is possible and one day every tear will be wiped away.

But, it requires a choice. Will you choose the path of the Magi who surrendered and worshipped or the path of Herod who rejected God’s rule over His life? Joy is found when we choose to see Christ for who He really is and believe that He is our salvation.

~ Regina

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