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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Herod's fear

It comes from losing control; ours from the call of discipleship to exchange control for trust.

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3).

In the silent movies, directors would often employ a device known as an “iris-out.” Beginning as a large circle on the screen revealing a fairly wide panorama, the diameter slowly closes upon a detail that doesn’t seem all that important but actually serves as a crucial transition into the next scene.

The Three Magi / Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NYA tidbit I’d never really noticed in a story about stars, night journeys and lavish Christmas gifts for a new baby is my new “iris-out” for the Epiphany season, as the church year moves from the manger to the risky ministry of Jesus.

When the Magi visit King Herod, they ask about the whereabouts of a certain child. The text reports that Herod, upon hearing this question, “was frightened.” This strikes me as strange. I’d understand if he were alarmed or even confused. But that’s not his first reaction. Herod is afraid—afraid of a child still in diapers. A powerful man becomes utterly undone by their question because in asking for this certain child, they asked: Where is the king of the Jews?


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