It was a season for families who’d moved away to come home.
Children were playing, learning, exulting in childhood.
Parents and grandparents doted on them; even casual observers could delight in their delight.
And then came the madman.
A twisted, perverted, sadistic residue of humanity decided these children were disposable, contemptible, worthless.
His disdain morphed into awful action. He made a plan to wipe out sweetness and joy and innocence and trust – all characteristics foreign to him.
He decided to kill publicly, swiftly, mercilessly.
The carnage itself was bad enough, without regard for the victims’ emotional anguish or physical agony, but his diabolical design was aimed at inflicting terror far beyond his immediate victims.
He sought to make himself legendary, to become infamous for his brutality, as though he’d failed to make a sufficient mark on the world any other way.
He aimed to leave the small town in panic and to horrify all those in distant places who would learn of the savaging.
He guaranteed that people would agonize over the existence of such evil and ask where God was when the slaughter happened and why He didn’t intervene.
Survivors would second-guess their actions during the massacre. Far-removed people would torment themselves wondering whether such viciousness might visit their loved ones.
Maybe the madman was so twisted by rage and resentment that he convinced himself the sweet little children were evil and that he was good.
Maybe, self-absorbed and obsessed with predictions, the madman’s scrambled thoughts transmogrified these tots into some monstrous threat.
One can say safely only that no human will ever know the madman’s complete motives.
What we do realize is that after that madman and the anguish he wrought, Christmas can never be all elves and Elvis, snowflakes and fireplaces, presents and parties and piety.
The Christ’s birth itself reflects the painful fact that evil – sin – is real, and that it exists not just in sadistic madmen but in us all.
That reality makes our observance of Messiah’s arrival more meaningful, not less.
It exposes all the more our need, and the world’s, for a Savior who will wipe away every tear and defeat death itself.
Christmas reminds us that not even a madman’s senseless butchery will ever thwart God’s purposes.
The Savior came.
The Savior lives.
In spite of that child-murdering madman, Herod.
Errol Castens is the Daily Journal’s Oxford Bureau reporter. Contact him at email@example.com.