The Christmas story often gets condensed, rather like fast-forwarding through a familiar film. It all seems to blur together: the angelic messages, the journey to Bethlehem, the choir of angels, Jesus in the manger, a host of visitors including shepherds and wise men. We like to fit it all into one carol service and that’s understandable, but sometimes we get a little confused in all this speed.

The Christmas story, as with any pregnancy and birth, took time. The wise men did not arrive at the stable, but some time later, so the story actually takes well over a year to unfold.

One of the least-told stories of Christmas (perhaps because it doesn’t fit into our saccharine-sweet, rosy-coloured view of the season) is in Matthew 2:13-18. After the wise men searched for a king in the ‘logical’ place (asking Herod about the birth of this new king), Herod was alerted to the threat from a new rival. In typically ruthless fashion, he decided to eliminate this threat, giving orders “to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi” (Matt 2:18) This dark event, known as the ‘slaughter or massacre of the Innocents’, reflects the darkness of sin.

Michael Card has captured this part of the Christmas story in his haunting song ‘Spirit of the Age’. The video that accompanies this draws a shocking parallel with today, for we still slaughter innocents, even in so-called civilised countries, asserting that unborn children are not really human. We need to understand the ‘spirit of the age’ and stand against ‘this voice that speaks from hell’.