Christmas is all about giving – what God gave us in Jesus Christ, and our giving to others. If you’re like me, you want to give gifts that are meaningful to the ones who receive them. Some people scoff at the idea of wish lists, but I’m all in favor of them. It helps to know what size, style, and color items my loved ones want. That way I’m sure to get something they will like.
But what if the item the person desires is not only something they don’t need, but detrimental to their well being? Should we still give them what they want?
Take Salome for instance, she did such a great job dancing for the guests at her stepfather’s birthday party, he promised her up to half his kingdom as a reward. He could do that, since he was the king. What she asked for shocked and grieved him. He knew it was wrong, but didn’t want to renege in front of his guests.
Salome wanted the head of the preacher man, on a platter – not for herself, you understand, but for her mom. That’s what Herodias wanted more than anything else. And that’s what she got. Like so many items on our wish lists, she thought it would make her happy.
Herodias wanted revenge because the preacher, John the Baptist, had openly rebuked her and King Herod for their unlawful marriage. She had divorced Herod's half brother, Philip, in order to marry him. John had embarrassed and shamed them. Herodias wanted revenge.
It wasn’t enough for her that Herod had put John in prison. Herod knew John was a righteous man. Even though the message perplexed him, he liked to hear him preach. Not Herodias, she wanted John out of the picture entirely. When Salome asked her mom what she wanted, Herodias handed over her wish list.*
This gift, however, did not bring lasting satisfaction. As it always does, the sweet taste of revenge turned sour in Herodias’ mouth. She wanted to silence the messenger- the message – but it would not be quieted. John was only one of God’s spokesmen. Jesus Christ - God himself – continued to speak the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin.
Salome contributed to her mother’s sins with her gift, and followed in her footsteps. Josephus, a scholar and historian of the first century, wrote that Herod Antipas, Herodias, and Salome all died in exile - unsatisfied, unrepentant, and alone.
Most people’s lists include electronic gadgets, flat screen TV’s, clothes, tools, even cars and exotic vacations. These gifts provide a temporary high, but that’s not what any of us need for Christmas. Many, like Herodias, want to silence the truth. They try to decapitate the Good News, wishing us “Happy Holidays,” rather than breathe the name of Christ. They want us to answer in kind and keep Jesus out of Christmas, making this a generic winter festival. But they need to hear the name of Christ whose Day we celebrate.
If we want to get ahead for Christmas, we need to stop giving people what they want –to silence the truth, for watered down wishes, Santa Claus, and feel-good giving – and give them what they really need. What they need is Jesus. What we all need is Jesus. Let’s speak His name and spread the gift of His message this Christmas season.
* You can find the story of Salome and Herodias in Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6:14-28.