A Closer look at Herod
- Sunday, January 1, 2017
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
So in the narrative of the wise men coming to see Jesus and bringing their gifts, Herod is cast as the “Big Bad” of the story. But I have come to find a new appreciation for Herod. As I have reflected on and indeed preached this text in many a sermon on Epiphany I have found that Herod in many ways is no different from me or you or anyone else.
Herod is ruler and Emperor of the known world. He has a very comfortable life with all available resources at his disposal. He lacks for nothing and yields tremendous power over his officials and citizens. He is someone who is greatly feared by many, and quite rightly so. He has proven to deal harshly and devastatingly with anyone that tries in any way to undermine him.
As someone with great wealth and power he is used to being in control of everything, especially matters related to himself or his court. So it is no surprise that when someone, somewhere is born who is viewed as someone who will change the world for the better, Herod’s reaction is quite understandable. This person, unknown to Herod, is now a threat because this he threatens Herod and everything that he and the government stand for. In Herod’s mind this must be stopped quickly and effortlessly so that life can resume back to normal. Herod cannot stand losing control. The question that comes to my mind, and where I have new sympathy for Herod is, how do we act when we lose control? How do we respond when our world and environment is threatened? Our natural instinct is to fix the problem at whatever cost. We want desperately for things to return to the normal and stable accepted patterns and processes that we are accustomed to. Like Herod, we don’t always respond well to change, no matter how good that change may be. This is a natural human reaction.
But we realize that life is full of change and the unpredictable. We always inevitably find that we are losing control of one or more aspects of our lives at any given time. While our natural reaction is to try and fix the problem and return to homeostasis, maybe it is worth reflecting a little more deeply in these times of unpredictability and transition. The question I offer you in these times of transitions is, “where is God in the midst of chaos and no control? God may seem distant and beyond our grasp during these times. However my friends, when we think about it, God is right there in the thick of it with us. Our God is a God who finds himself in midst of the chaos of our lives, because God came into this world as a person to share a common experience with us. So yes, God is in the middle of the muck and not afraid to get his hands dirty.
Knowing that God is in the midst of the chaos of our lives when our world is turned upside down is one of the most stabilizing and reassuring things to hold onto. This doesn’t make us less afraid, and it certainly doesn’t make Herod less afraid. But what it does do is remind us that in the final analysis, God is in our lives in the very best and worst of times to liberate us and to make all things well again.
This is where the star in the Epiphany narrative is so important. The star functioned as the guide and light for the Wise Men. They used the star to navigate and a focal point for their journey. The star shone brightly, overlooking the scene and holding for the Wise Men, Herod and the world the Big Picture. God continues to hold the Big Picture for us in our lives in this world.