Reflecting on the first Christmas, Matt Emerson urges us to resist “sugary exhortations about love and goodwill” that usually accompany the holiday, adding that “so secure are our lives and fortunes, so long have we connected Christmas to parties and candy canes, we rarely wrestle with the reality of what happened”:
The news of Jesus’ arrival confused Mary; caused Joseph to consider divorce; and, in King Herod, commenced a genocidal fury. Once Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph have to flee Bethlehem to evade Herod’s assassins. The Holy Family wait there until an angel tells Joseph to return; but Joseph, fearful of Herod’s son, and warned by another angel, decides to head to Nazareth. That’s the first Christmas. It rattles a marriage. It exiles a family. It endangers lives. And it provokes a madman to murder. The brisk descriptions in the New Testament fail to capture what must have been, for Mary and Joseph and many others, a bewildering, terrifying ordeal.