The wise men – the sages and magicians from the Eastern lands – this part of the Christmas story is unique to the Gospel according to Matthew. Though the traditional manger scene has the wise men and shepherds all at the manger together, it never happened that way. The sages were nowhere near the birth scene. Their arrival was a few years after the birth.
The little holy family was likely in a house and Joseph working a local construction site by the time the camels and guests arrived with gifts. Jesus was maybe walking, around age two. Their arrival must have stirred up concern about who else knew about the baby and who else knew where they were living. You know it got the neighbors to talking. You know it got the baby’s mother to worrying.
The concern was justified. Herod was in a murderous rage when he discovered the Wise men had double crossed him. Determined to destroy any rival to his throne, Herod sent soldiers out with orders to slaughter all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem.
Then Joseph has a dream. It is vivid. It is forceful. The text, which is so lacking of details, simply says, “Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.” (Matt. 2:14)
The Child was safe. The children of Bethlehem were not.
Look it up on Google and you’ll get a wide range of opinions as to whether or not the slaughter of the innocents ever happened. They will say that first century historians, such as Josephus, recorded all of Herod’s atrocities and this one is not mentioned.
There is a reason why this one is not mentioned. A small village like Bethlehem would have had five, maybe seven boys age two or under. This atrocity is just a blimp on the record of a horrid killer like Herod the Great. Normal history did not take note.
Biblical history did. And believers of all persuasions should take note. Why do we need Christmas? Because there have been and there still are madmen like Herod who will slaughter innocent children in order to achieve wicked ends. The Child had to be protected, so others could live.
The truth is God the Father intended for his Son to be slaughtered, but not yet. The time was not right. He had to be protected until it was time for Him to die. These precious little boys in Bethlehem helped protect our Savior. They must never be forgotten.