Matthew 2:17-18 – Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more." (ESV)
Last year, my son was asked to participate in leading a special "Blue Christmas" service at our church. It is held every year before the holidays to comfort those in mourning. The message emphasizes the Lord's understanding of our sorrows, as Jesus Himself came into a broken world. Moreover, this service includes special music, testimonies, a place to bring pictures of loved ones, and a time of prayer. Although I had never heard of this type of ceremony before, it made perfect sense to me. I thought about all the hurting people who are blessed because of this ministry; then I remembered the tragedy which took place shortly after the birth of Christ. We see a glimpse of it in today's Scripture from Matthew's gospel.
Rachel, the mother of two of Jacob's sons, Joseph and Benjamin, died while giving birth to her second child. She later became an image of sorrow for those who mourned in the days of the prophet Jeremiah. At that time, Rachel's descendants assembled at Ramah, a town near Bethlehem where she was buried. There her progeny were carried away into captivity.
Years later, the image of Rachel weeping is seen to be a prophecy of Jeremiah which reached its fulfillment at the birth of Jesus, when Herod ordered the tragic deaths of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem. This was an attempt to eliminate the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Since Bethlehem was a small town, it has been estimated that approximately twenty children died that day. Not surprisingly, this too is part of the Christmas story, as Jesus was born into a world of sin. Still, the good news is that the story does not end there.
Despite Rachel's tears, the gospel message is one of forgiveness and hope to all people. Jesus, the only child who escaped Herod's wrath, was protected by God. Instead, He would one day endure God's wrath for the sake of our redemption. A prophecy of Isaiah illustrates the Lord's divine plan:
Isaiah 53:4-5 – Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (ESV)
If you are feeling sad this Christmas, Jesus understands. And if you are willing, He can heal the void in your heart today. Come and worship at His altar of grace. Let Him fill your life with the hope and peace He was born to provide.
Prayer: Merciful Father, only You can turn Rachel's weeping into joy, her sorrow into great blessings. Help us in this Christmas season to share Your love as we proclaim the true purpose of Messiah's birth. May the gift of His salvation be our praise and glory forevermore. In Jesus' precious name, we pray. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Lo How A Rose" (Lyrics)