You don’t ever see him on Christmas cards. There are not any figurines of him in our nativity sets. You don’t see a glowing King Herod on people’s lawns as a part of their Christmas light display. He didn’t make any Christmas Carols. And while you will see children with the names of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Elizabeth, John, and even the occasional Zechariah, nobody in history has had the boldness to name their kid “Herod.” Nobody even dares to name their dog Herod. This is understandable for the same reason no one would name their son “Adolf” or “Stalin.” There are certain names that have historical associations so bad that we avoid them altogether. (Have you ever seen that modern documentary about people with the last name Hitler?) Why is this? Here’s a couple reasons:
We’re more similar to King Herod than we think. While entirely understandable why “Herod” is not written on any birth certifications, it is a little peculiar, because I think if we’re honest, the character in the Christmas story that many of us most resemble is Herod. Sure, we’re not out there killing babies or murdering members of our own families out of paranoia, but there is something in all of us that will stop at nothing to get rid of those who threaten our power. Herod’s lust for political power and anxiety over his throne is not so unfamiliar to us. There is something deep within the human soul that rises up whenever anyone threatens our self-centered lives and cries out “No one tells me what to do.” In the book of Romans, Paul reminds us that “the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot.” There is something in us that will protect our own thrones at all costs, even when it means getting rid of Jesus.
Herod missed out on one of the greatest opportunities in history. Herod had the opportunity to see the birth of Jesus. I recently was reading something Max Lucado wrote about how God did everything necessary to get Herod’s attention. He sent wise men from the east, and words from the prophets. He provided wonders in the skies, and revelation from Israel’s Scriptures. Still, Herod chose to protect his own precarious rule, which would be over in a short amount of time. There are many people who have willingly rejected the voice of God in their lives, not because there are any rational reasons to do so, but rather because to admit belief in God or any higher power comes along with demands on that person’s life. Many who remain in doubt have failed to recognize that they have a vested interested in God NOT existing, for if He does exist, that means they owe him everything, and will be removed from the throne of their own lives. Doubt your doubts! It is far better to give up your throne willingly than to be forced off it.
Herod chose pride over humility. “Pride goes before destruction,” the author of Proverbs writes, “and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Fall Herod did, just like every king before him, every other ruler in history, whether Pharaoh, or Nebuchadnezzar, or Alexander the Great. We don’t get to keep our thrones. The positions of leadership in which we find ourselves are always temporary so we should approach them with an open hand and with humility. The way of Jesus is marked not by self-preservation, but by self-denial. Herod’s pride destroyed his family, destroyed the town of Bethlehem, fragmented his kingdom, and destroyed his legacy, because he could not release control of his kingdom to another king, even if it was just a baby. Proud people miss out on the voice of God. Pride will always eventually take you to some great plummet; humility and wonder will lead you to the manger.
Even though we all have a ‘little king Herod’ inside all of us, may we be careful that we do not miss the manger. May we be aware of our subtle attempts to get rid of Jesus (even as we pretend to be Christians and use a lot of religious language to cover up the real issues of the heart). May we choose humility over pride.
And if you ever do meet anyone named ‘Herod,’ don’t chide them for it, but maybe see if you can subtly get the nickname “Harry” to stick.