13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet,“Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “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.”
This episode in the Christmas story from Matthew isn’t included in many carols or Christmas cards, but it’s a crucial part of the story. Matthew shows us that Jesus was born into a world where people like Herod can commit unthinkable evil. A world where the powerful usually win. It’s the same world that Pharaoh, hundreds of years earlier, had ordered every Hebrew baby boy to be killed. Jesus was born into the real world. Power-crazed despots like Herod still inflict great suffering on their people across the world. Those of us living in a country like the UK can find it hard to relate to this part of the Christmas story. But we all know that we live in a world where human beings do terrible things to each other. That’s the world Jesus was born into and the world Jesus came to rescue.