Friday, December 28, 2012

Setting the Date for the Return of Christ

You would think people would learn...setting the date for the return of Jesus Christ is not a good idea.  The most recent entrant into this fool's errand is Tim Warner's The Time of the End.  

On a blog promoting this book (see HERE) I posted this comment:

In reference to being able to know the time of Christ's return a great and well-authenticated Bible scholar said this:

"It is evident that, in the minds of most Christians today, Matt. 24:36 is believed to prohibit anyone from being able to see the day of our Lord's return approaching.  Matt. 24:36 states that 'No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.'  In looking at this statement, you can easily see that it is impossible to know the exact day and hour of the Lord Jesus' return....However, this does not preclude or prevent the faithful from knowing the year, the month, and the week of the Lord's return."

This model biblical scholar further stressed the importance of his analysis by carefully corroborating his model of prediction with many others.  He wrote:

"We see many people of God coming up with the same time, some by dreams, some by visions, some by words from God, and others have calculated it out as we have.  Irregardless of how the information is obtained it all agrees that Jesus is coming September 1988.  Unlike the wrong date-setters of the past who were only single voices, this message has many voices."
 *Edgar C. Whisenant "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be In  1988" pp. 2-3, 49
He who has ears, let him hear--Matthew 13.9

John Piper on "Where Was God In All the Goodness of 2012?"

Pastor John Piper has a short but excellent piece entitled "Where Was God In All the Goodness of 2012?"  It is usual and understandable to ask about God in times of crisis and pain but we do not reflect enough on "the problem of peace and pleasure."  Here a few of Pastor Piper's thoughts:
How can God be a God of justice, yet allow so much good to happen to people who dishonor him by disbelieving in him, or giving lip service to his existence, or paying no more attention to him than the carpet in their den, or rejecting the kingship of his Son, or scorning his word, or preferring a hundred pleasures before him?
How can God be righteous and do so much good to us who are so unrighteous?
Where was God in 2012?
  • Where was God when nine million planes landed safely in the United States?
  • Where was God when the world revolved around the sun so accurately that it achieved the Winter solstice perfectly at 5:12 AM December 21 and headed back toward Spring?
  • Where was God when the President was not shot at a thousand public appearances?
  • Where was God when American farms produced ten million bushels of corn, and 2.8 million bushels of soybeans — enough food to sell $100 billions worth to other nations?
  • Where was God when no terrorist plot brought down a single American building or plane or industry?
  • Where was God when the sun maintained its heat and its gravitational pull precisely enough that we were not incinerated or frozen?
  • Where was God when three hundred million Americans drank water in homes and restaurants without getting sick?
  • Where was God when no new plague swept away a third of our race?
  • Where was God when Americans drove three trillion accident free miles?
  • Where was God when over three million healthy babies were born in America?
 Pastor Piper's examples can easily be multiplied and this renders our need for thankfulness even more crucial.  Be sure to read the full post by Pastor Piper and see some of the biblical data in response to the question, "Where was God in all the goodness of 2012?"

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Newtown, CT: God's Judgment?

Various voices have been interpreted to say that the murders of Newtown are a result of God's judgment on America.  Both Mike Huckabee and James Dobson have made remarks that some have taken in this manner.  The response to these men has been, at times, vitriolic as they have been criticized for the very idea that God might bring temporal judgments in human history upon a culture.

I'm not interested in analyzing Huckabee's or Dobson's statements nor will I attempt to link Newtown to God's judgments.  Rather, what I want to do here is to look at one aspect of the biblical material about God's judgments in history.  Unless we first understand the biblical perspective we will not be able to properly apply God's word to our time.  Of course, we always need to be on the watch because we might accurately understand the biblical message but then inappropriately apply it to contemporary issues.  My concern in this post, though, is in reference to the first aspect--understanding what the Bible says about God's judgments.

A good entry point into this discussion comes from Francis Schaeffer.  Over forty years ago Francis Schaeffer wrote these words:
The hand of God is down into our culture in judgment, and men are hungry.  Unlike Zeus, whom men imagined hurling down great thunderbolts, God has turned away in judgment as our generation turned away from Him, and He is allowing cause and effect to take its course in history.
God can bring His judgment in one of two ways: either by direct intervention in history or by the turning of the wheels of history.  Often it is the peripheral blessings flowing from the gospel which when freed from the Christian base then become the things of judgment in the next generation.  Consider freedom, for example.  It is the result of the Reformation in the northern European world which have given us a balance of form and freedom in the area of the state and society, freedom for women, freedom for children, freedom in the area of the state under law.  And yet, when once we are away from the Christian base, it is this very freedom, now freedom without form, that brings a judgment upon us in the turning wheels of history.  Death in the City in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (vol. 4), p. 216.
God's judgment by direct intervention is paradigmatically seen in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  This kind of judgment is dramatic and event-oriented--the judgment is an event itself.  The other kind of judgment that God brings is described by Schaeffer as "the turning of the wheels of history."  This is a kind of judgment that takes place over time as a culture is judged.  An example of this judgment is described in Isaiah chapter nineteen.  Understanding this passage will allow us to see what are the dynamics of cultural judgment.  In particular, the focus here will be on Isaiah 19.1-17.

         1   The oracle concerning Egypt. 
Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt; 
The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, 
And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
                  2      “So I will incite Egyptians against Egyptians; 
And they will each fight against his brother and each against his neighbor, 
City against city and kingdom against kingdom.  

                  3      “Then the spirit of the Egyptians will be demoralized within them; 
And I will confound their strategy, 
So that they will resort to idols and ghosts of the dead 
And to mediums and spiritists.  

                  4      “Moreover, I will deliver the Egyptians into the hand of a cruel master, 
And a mighty king will rule over them,” declares the Lord God of hosts. 

                  5      The waters from the sea will dry up, 
And the river will be parched and dry.  

                  6      The canals will emit a stench, 
The streams of Egypt will thin out and dry up; 
The reeds and rushes will rot away.  

                  7      The bulrushes by the Nile, by the edge of the Nile 
And all the sown fields by the Nile 
Will become dry, be driven away, and be no more. 

                  8      And the fishermen will lament, 
And all those who cast a line into the Nile will mourn, 
And those who spread nets on the waters will pine away.  

                  9      Moreover, the manufacturers of linen made from combed flax 
And the weavers of white cloth will be utterly dejected.  

                  10      And the pillars of Egypt will be crushed; 
All the hired laborers will be grieved in soul. 

                  11      The princes of Zoan are mere fools; 
The advice of Pharaoh’s wisest advisers has become stupid. 
How can you men say to Pharaoh, 
“I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”?  

                  12      Well then, where are your wise men? 
Please let them tell you, 
And let them understand what the Lord of hosts 
Has purposed against Egypt.  

                  13      The princes of Zoan have acted foolishly, 
The princes of Memphis are deluded; 
Those who are the cornerstone of her tribes 
Have led Egypt astray.  

                  14      The Lord has mixed within her a spirit of distortion; 
They have led Egypt astray in all that it does, 
As a drunken man staggers in his vomit.  

                  15      There will be no work for Egypt 
Which its head or tail, its palm branch or bulrush, may do.  

         16   In that day the Egyptians will become like women, and they will tremble and be in dread because of the waving of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which He is going to wave over them. 

         17   The land of Judah will become a terror to Egypt; everyone to whom it is mentioned will be in dread of it, because of the purpose of the Lord of hosts which He is purposing against them. 

This appears in a section of Isaiah that is focused on God's judgments on nations around Israel of which Egypt is one.  The significance of this is that this message of judgment is upon a non-covenanted nation unlike much of the judgments mentioned in scripture which focus on God's covenanted people Israel or Judah.  

The first verse describes the coming of the Lord as riding a swift cloud which is a familiar way of describing a judgment motif.   Both the Egyptians as a people and their gods are described as fearful.  The next two verses (vv. 2-3) describe both external and internal cultural confusion.  There is a lack of social unity and a profound religious confusion.  E. J. Young comments:
True unity, we may learn from this passage, comes from the Lord; and when He sets a nation against itself, there can be no unity.  Only when a nation repents and turns to Him can true unity be found.  The Lord, therefore, is the source of unity.
The failure of the spirit of Egypt appears in that Egypt no longer has any counsel.  The counsel which it would devise for its own deliverance is one which cannot stand.  No strong voice of wisdom can be raised, for God Himself will bring to mishap any advice or counsel proposed.  This is a vigorous way of stating that Egypt's counsel is to be completely destroyed.  Whatever advice is proposed comes to distress by God and so exists no more; it is completely gone.
The tragic result is that, inasmuch as there is no sound voice, the people engage in that most foolish of all follies, the turning to spiritualistic media.  When man acts thus unwisely, surely true counsel has disappeared!  The prophet lists the objects of the people's inquiry, and at the head of all stand the idols.  A wise nation seeks the source of wisdom, namely God; a foolish people whom wisdom has forsaken looks for advice and help from those who have no counsel or wisdom.  When God abandon us, we are left to search for wisdom where it cannot be found.  The Book of Isaiah, vol. 2, pp. 15, 17-18.
 This internal and external cultural confusion leads to political upheaval with the outcome of being placed under a "cruel taskmaster."   

Economic distress is articulated in verses 5-10 under a number of historically situated metaphors and images.  The Nile River is the center and source of the Egyptian economy.  As goes the Nile so goes the economy.  
The drought affects farmers, fishermen, and the secondary enterprises that depend upon them, in this case the textile workers.  The speech is a remarkable description of economic distress that follows the failure of the annual Nile floods.  The context draws upon the picture of Yahweh's reign over the weather and over nature (19:1) to account for the conditions.  Egypt's troubles are cumulative and interrelated.  The external political pressures (19:4) combine with internal ones (19:2-3) and natural economic disasters (19:5-10) to bring Egypt to its knees.  John D. W. Watts Isaiah (WBC), p. 254.
In verses 11-15 a general foolishness in the intellectual arena is mentioned.  Those who are supposed to have wisdom for the nation are seen to be without insight--"the advice of Pharaoh's wisest advisors has become stupid."  The statesmen and established intellectuals fail to understand "what the Lord of hosts has purposed against Egypt."  Verse 14 is very clear to show that it is the Lord himself who is behind this judgment.  E. J. Young writes:
Isaiah now goes back to ultimate causes.  He does not begin this sentence with a verb but with a noun, the Lord.  The word is placed first for emphasis, and immediately brings us to the cause of all that has been described.  It is the Lord and no other; He whom the wise of the world despise... The folly therefore which characterized Egypt did not come about in the "natural course of events," nor was it accidental, but resulted from a direct supernatural judicial action pronounced against the nation.  As a result of this spirit Egypt will be led astray in all its work, namely, its economic procedure, daily business, and occupation.  The Book of Isaiah, vol. 2, p. 30.
This picture in Isaiah 19 of judgment upon Egypt encompasses the entirety of culture: religious, political, economic, social, and intellectual.  This is a judgment that is clearly predicated as coming from the Lord.  He is active in bringing this state of affairs into being so that Egypt is judged.  

Is there something from this description that is of relevance for contemporary application?  Might it not be that this same kind of judgment happens today--that God judges non-covenanted nations in similar ways with similar results?  Alec Moyter, in his commentary on Isaiah, helpfully comments:
The abiding message of a passage such as this lies not in its details, which are peculiar to its situation and date, but in its insistence that the problems of society, economics and politics, have a spiritual causation.  They are the outworking of divine purposes and are directly traceable to the hand of God, not the outworking of sociological laws, market forces or political fortunes.  And it is only by recourse to the Lord that they can be solved.  The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 164.

Rather than looking to specific events (e.g., Newtown murders, 9/11, etc.) as tokens of God's judgment perhaps Isaiah 19 might help us to analyze trends in a given culture that are indicative of God's judgment.  In Isaiah 19 we are given a description of what historical judgments can look like and we can watch for these same types of indicators in our culture and society.  There is always the danger of incorrect application or misdiagnosis.  There are also other biblical truths that need to be factored into the discussion as well.  A quick list of these other factors would include: God's common grace on cultures, God's inscrutable sovereignty in which sometimes the righteous suffer (Job), the fact that sometimes the righteous suffer but the wicked seem at ease (Psalm 73), God sometimes uses wicked nations to judge other wicked nations (Habakkuk), and the fact that sometimes judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4.17).

Schaeffer spoke of God "allowing cause and effect to take its course in history."  This is not to deny the active, provident hand of God behind history.  Schaeffer was contrasting this to God's "direct intervention" like is seen in the judgment on Sodom.  Schaeffer recognized that God's judgment on American culture was not to be seen in direct "fire from heaven" but, rather, in the cultural and societal moves away from God and the effects such an apostasy produced.  The apostle Paul uses the phrase "God gave them over" in Romans chapter one and the passage from Isaiah gives us a glimpse of what such a "giving over" can look like in a culture.  

Consider, in closing, these words from Francis Schaeffer which were written in his last book before his death in 1984:
Finally, we must not forget that the world is on fire.  We are not only losing the church, but our entire culture as well.  We live in the post-Christian world which is under the judgment of God.  I believe today that we must speak as Jeremiah did.  Some people think that just because the United States of America is the United States of America, because Britain is Britain, they will not come under the judgment of God.  This is not so.  I believe that we of Northern Europe since the Reformation have had such light as few other have ever possessed.  We have stamped upon that light in our culture.  Our cinemas, our novels, our art museums, our schools scream out as they stamp upon that light.  And worst of all, modern theology screams out as it stamps upon that light.  Do you think God will not judge our countries simply because they are our countries?  Do you think that the holy God will not judge?  The Great Evangelical Disaster in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (vol. 4), p. 363. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Dangers of Sentimentality

I have been influenced by the life and thought of Francis Schaeffer so I was excited to receive the book Francis Schaeffer: A Mind and Heart for God (edited by Bruce A. Little, 2010) a couple of years ago.  Most of the chapters revolved around the work of Schaeffer but the last chapter by Dick Keyes picks up a topic of current relevance.  His topic, however, was a bit perplexing to me when I first saw it.  His chapter was entitled "Sentimentality: Significance for Apologetics."  Sentimentality?  This is a crucial topic for Christian apologetics?  Those were my first impressions from the title but after reading the chapter I found Keyes to have important insights regarding this topic.  This was just as Keyes predicted in his introduction:
I will look at sentimentality as a serious, but largely unnoticed threat to the Christian faith.  It may seem strange to you to raise sentimentality as anything but a frivolous pop-culture phenomenon, but as we progress, I think you will see its significance.  (p. 89)
Keyes begins by addressing the kinds of problems that sentimentality poses for Christians.
First, if sentimentality has seduced the Christian community, that itself is a serious enough problem to Christian integrity.  But insofar as this seduction has happened, it then becomes a reliable turnoff to honest people who are investigating whether truth might be found in Jesus Christ.  They will conclude that faith in Christ is only sentimentality, and scorn it.  It has become a negative apologetic in the sense that it contributes to the implausibility of Christ in the public mind.  Second, it presents a challenge to Christian apologetics in that the sentimental person who is not a Christian will have built-in filters and barriers to real Christian belief which will block him or her from taking Christ seriously.  (p. 90)
Sentimentality is defined by Keyes under three points:
First, sentimentality sees a world without sin, evil, brokenness, ugliness, cruelty, complexity, or confusion.  These unpleasant things are denied, trivialized, or euphemized.  It is a world of niceness, warmth, harmony, and simplicity.  Second, sentimentality is self-refrential emotion.  It is a turning of the feelings back on themselves, feeling about your feeling.  This means that people in the grip of sentimentality who think they are in love may actually not so much love another person, as love their own emotions about that other person.  Their love may be largely for what the other person does to and for them.  Third, sentimental emotions do not result in responsible action.  This makes sense if feelings are self-refrential (about me, not the outside world).  Sentimental emotions distract and anesthetize us from what might be appropriate responses, especially if those responses are costly or inconvenient.  (pp. 90-91)
In reference to the third point--a lack of response to the emotional stimulus--Keyes points to a familiar and ubiquitous example:
Think about the vast popularity of TV news.  What is it designed to do?  Of course it is designed to entertain in order to make money, which it can only do by keeping you from changing channels.  But how does it keep you from changing channels?  Much of the TV news is designed to make you feel good about yourself for feeling bad.  TV news is designed to engage your emotions, not that you would do anything about the news (how could you possibly?), but that you would feel right and good about feeling those things--grief, outrage, compassion, and empathy.  Could it be that some TV news builds feelings of satisfaction about myself for feeling compassion about the victims of murder, assassination, flood, earthquake... much more than it encourages actual concern or action for the people who are hurt?  (pp. 97-98)
This kind of sentimentality is already being seen in some of the current responses to the Newtown, CT murders.  There are those who eschew complexity and look for simplistic answers.  The primary way this is being played out is the hue and cry for gun control.  There are also well-meaning people who want to "do something" but the something they end up doing doesn't make much sense.  Locally a group of people responded to the murders by collecting four and half tons of toys to be sent to Newtown.  As I watched this I shook my head.  It's a nice but largely meaningless gesture.  Newtown is an upper-middle class neighborhood--I've heard the average house is valued around $400,000.  They don't need a huge quantity of toys to help them cope.  Now if this had been a natural disaster with families displaced then maybe this "toys for tots" response would make sense.  As it is Newtown doesn't need this but to point this out is to somehow present oneself as a grinch.

Christians need to be especially alert to sentimentality in the church.  Keyes points out that:
many Christians can't stand to face doubt, uncertainty, or conflict in areas close to their faith, so they have a sentimental language code that filters them out and replaces them with warm, nice euphemisms.  It is not the doubts, uncertainties, and conflicts that create cynics as much as it is the denials and euphemisms of the code.  (pp. 100-101)
This is much in line with the thoughts of Klaus Issler and J. P. Moreland that they outline in their book In Search of a Confident Faith.
 Thus, we now have a stifling, stagnating situation in the evangelical community: People do not feel safe in expressing doubt or lack of belief about some doctrinal point—even the question of whether they actually believe in God.  The result is that people hide what they actually believe from others, and even from themselves, all the while continuing to use faith-talk to avoid being socially ostracized in their local fellowship.  Because we do not fully understand assensus (and fiducia; see below), we have unintentionally created a situation in which people do not know how to distinguish what they believe from what they say they believe.  Thus, they substitute community jargon for authentic trust.  To effectively address this situation, we must create safe, honest, nondefensive fellowships in which people are given permission to be  on a faith journey, with all the warts, messiness and setbacks that are part of such a journey.  We must also address general and specific intellectual doubts, provide insights about the affective, emotional hindrances to growth in confidence in God, and become more intentional about bearing credible witnesses to each other regarding answers to prayer and other supernatural experiences that strengthen faith.  (p. 22) 
Sentimentality undermines reality and, thus, undermines the gospel message.  The people of the gospel must be willing to face the brokenness of the world with honesty.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jeremiah on the Mayan Calendar

Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel.

Thus says the Lord, 

“Do not learn the way of the nations, 
And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens 
Although the nations are terrified by them; 

For the customs of the peoples are delusion; 
Because it is wood cut from the forest, 
The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. 

“They decorate it with silver and with gold; 
They fasten it with nails and with hammers 
So that it will not totter. 
“Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, 
And they cannot speak; 
They must be carried, 
Because they cannot walk! 
Do not fear them, 
For they can do no harm, 
Nor can they do any good.” 

There is none like You, O Lord; 
You are great, and great is Your name in might. 
Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? 
Indeed it is Your due! 

For among all the wise men of the nations 
And in all their kingdoms, 
There is none like You. 

But they are altogether stupid and foolish 
In their discipline of delusion—their idol is wood! 
Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, 
And gold from Uphaz, 
The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; 
Violet and purple are their clothing; 
They are all the work of skilled men. 

But the Lord is the true God; 
He is the living God and the everlasting King.
At His wrath the earth quakes, 
And the nations cannot endure His indignation.

Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” 

It is He who made the earth by His power, 
Who established the world by His wisdom; 
And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. 
When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, 
And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, 
And brings out the wind from His storehouses.

Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge; 
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols; 
For his molten images are deceitful, 
And there is no breath in them. 
They are worthless, a work of mockery; 
In the time of their punishment they will perish. 

The portion of Jacob is not like these; 
For the Maker of all is He, 
And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance; 
The Lord of hosts is His name. 

Jeremiah 10.1-16

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on Newtown, CT

After hearing of the murders that happened in Newtown, CT last Friday I changed the topic of my sermon from our continued exposition of 2 Timothy to consider some biblical themes of relevance to what happened and how Americans are dealing with this murderous event.  I approached the sermon by seeking to consider what the Bible has to say to us in light of this event.  We as the people of Jesus Christ must avoid sentimentality.  We must have overflowing hearts of compassion and empathetic pain.  We must also have heads informed by God's revelation so we can properly respond and interact in the national discussions that will be taking place for some time.  For the purposes of my sermon I had five points.

1.  We are especially burdened that it was children that were murdered.  This is proper and this sense of burdened is reflected in Jesus' view of children.  Matthew 18.1ff shows Jesus pointing to a child as an example of a kingdom participant.  He goes on to say:
And whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.  (vv. 5-6)
2.  Evil exists.  The slaughter of children confronts us with that which is morally reprehensible--and everybody knows this.  The murder of children renders the claims of moral relativism hollow.  There are moral truths that we cannot not know and the Newtown massacre forces this upon on our conscience in an unmistakable manner.  It is one thing to live in a time and culture where academics debate the acceptability of infanticide in professional journals but the arguments ring hollow when bullets and blood mingle.

3.  Already some are using this event to blaspheme and profane the name of God and his Son, Jesus Christ.  There are those who are claiming that events like the Newtown killings render belief in God foolish and that such activity of evil is the best reason to be an atheist.  But we really must ask whether naturalistic atheism provides any comfort or intellectual answers.  Can naturalistic atheism provide the proper intellectual framework to even make sense of the notion of objective evil?  According to naturalistic atheism people are simply evolving bags of chemicals. But why, given such an atheistic conception, should we be morally outraged if one evolving bag of chemicals causing another evolving bag of chemicals to leak?  Atheistic naturalism must give an account of objective morality and the value of human life.  We need to beware of non-religious sentimentality just as much as religious variants.  Consider the sentimental slop of John Lennon's "Imagine":
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Such tripe will not be sung at the funerals of any of the children.  A Christian conception of God and his revelation in Jesus Christ does not answer every question of "why" but it does, at least, make sense of our moral longings.  The biblical portrait of reality takes evil seriously and offers a worldview in which redemption, justice, and healing are possibilities.

4.  There is a legitimate way for the people of God to ask God, "why?"  Scriptural revelation gives us numerous examples of asking "why" of God.  This is not necessarily bad or inappropriate.  The Bible gives us a grammar of pain--language to use in the midst of crisis.  Consider the words of Habakkuk 1.2-3 and notice their present applicability:
How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and you will not hear?  I cry out to you, "Violence!"  Yet you do not save.  Why do you make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness?  Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises.
Jesus himself even cried out "why" in the face of evil.  Consider those words taken from Psalm 22 as he is dying on the cross--"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27.46).  There is a proper place for painful questioning and crying out to God.

5.  There are no tidy answers that we can give as to why this particular evil was allowed to happen to these particular children.  There are questions but there is also something else--Jesus.  Jesus was born into a world of murder.  At his birth the angels sang but there is also a dark side to the story.  Herod killed a number of children in an attempt to kill off Jesus and, thus, to protect his political interests.
Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.  Then what had been spoke through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more."  Matthew 2.16-18
There is a gritty and grisly realism to this narrative.  The Son of God was born into a world of murder and, more than that, he himself became a victim of murder.  He did not leave himself immune from the evil but, rather, embraced it.  The words of Peter in his first sermon are familiar:
Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--this man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put him to death.  Acts 2.22-23
God's plan for his Son included murder at the hands of godless men.   This, of course, is not the end of the story--
But God raised him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for him to be held in its power.  Acts 2.24
Our hope is in the resurrection of Jesus.  God has shown himself more than able to bring good out of the evil committed against his Son.  So our hope is firmly rooted in this God of the resurrection.  The book of Hebrews has these important words:
"You have put all things in subjection under his feet."  For in subjecting all things to him, he left nothing that is not subject to him.  But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.  But we do see him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.  Hebrews 2.8-9
We don't yet see everything subject and set right.  But we do see Jesus--crucified and raised from the dead.  In seeing him we see hope.  Murder is not the last word--the last word will belong to Jesus Christ and in that word we hope.