The Cast of Advent: December 1 – Herod

This is the first in this year’s Advent devotions “The Cast of Advent.” Each day we’ll take a few minutes to think about the characters who play supporting roles in the gospel accounts of Christ’s birth.

Remains of Herod’s port at Caesarea

“In the days of Herod, king of Judea…” (Luke 1:5)

I suspect many of us are more familiar with the words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Those words transport our minds and imaginations into the fantasy world and the entertainment franchise of Star Wars.

In contrast, Luke’s words, “In the days of Herod, king of Judea” (Luke 1:5) transport our hearts and spirits to a specific time and place. Christ’s advent, that is, his arrival, occurs in the pages of history in places you can still visit today.

During a recent trip to Israel, I stood among the remains of King Herod’s magnificent building projects. Herod is well known for expansion of the second temple in Jerusalem, the coastal harbor at Caesarea and the desert fortress of Masada. Herod is also well known for securing his throne with violence. Yes, this is the same Herod who commanded the slaughter of babies in Bethlehem when the wise men were seeking the newborn king of the Jews.

In contrast, Jesus establishes his throne in a completely different way. Our Lord is remembered for his humility rather than impressive monuments. Whereas Herod had bodyguards and secret police to watch his back, the Son of God never had to call upon legions of angels to defend him. The King of kings secures his throne by dying instead of killing others.

When you go to church this Advent, you’ll be standing in the middle of Jesus’ only construction project. It’s not a pile of rubble, is it? It is instead the living, breathing, spirit-filled “stones” of the church, the people of God. Rather than being a long time ago or in a place far away, it’s right here and right now.

Lord, thank you for coming into my world and my life to be my king. This Advent, make me more aware of what it means to walk among the living stones of your church. Amen.