In His Hands

Zechariah’s Hands

Zechariah’s old hands spread on a cold temple floor. They’re attached to arms that are tired and sore from reaching for something in the distance. They come together in supplication, then rise to the heavens. They long to hold a child; long for a barren womb to be filled; they’ve longed for a while. These time-worn hands beat a chest wracked with sobs escaping a mouth that gasps: “How long? My God how long will her womb be a tomb? How long shall these hands be empty? Our hope has been deferred for years, now giving up is tempting.  How long until songs return to Elizabeth’s lips? It’s hard to see your hand in this. Are we too old to be consoled? Nevertheless help me trust in your plan. Because as it stands, you hold all life in your hands.” 

Then, suddenly appearing to his right, a winged figure of fire, blazing with light, that spoke of great joy for the barren and old. An end to the waiting, a womb that would hold, a child to make straight the way of the Lord. Elizabeth will ere long give birth to a son, filled with the Spirit, his name shall be John. He will pave the way for Emmanuel, God’s begotten Son. 

Herod’s Hands

Jeweled hands clench in hidden fury on the arms of a golden throne. Herod the Great listens intently as wise men from the east tell of a long awaited king born recently. A child born to set captives free and rule over all in justice and tranquility. 

 

Anger, fear and pride grow inside Herod like an overinflated balloon

Any minute now and he might go boom!

 

“Foolish wise men!”, Herod thought, “What do they know?

I am the greatest; I run the show

I have the title given by Rome

Who did Octavian and Antony choose?

Me! Me! I am the rightful King of the Jews!”

 

Herod looks at his hands, calloused by terrible deeds he committed;

they seemed bathed in crimson.

Those hands did whatever it took to get him what he never seemed to be able to hold onto—security. He never truly felt good enough, safe enough, loved enough. 

 

For example, his first wife was so beautiful. Herod couldn’t bear the thought of ever losing her to another; he imagined she had other lovers. So his hands, guided by shadowy whispers and jealousy gave the order to have her killed. As for his sons, he knew they hated him and fearing a conspiracy, those paranoid hands found a reason to write them out of his will and then had them executed publicly for treason. His mother-in-law didn’t make a sound as he hanged her from a rope on the fortress grounds. His brother-in-law also became a threat to his crown, so Herod’s hands held him under till he drowned.

 

No one could touch him; no one could judge him

He made the charges and he gave the verdict

All of Judea would bow to this greatness

And if they despised him, he’d make them love him

He gave them roads, a temple and buildings

He gave them gifts of bread during famines

He taxed them to death, then lowered their taxes

He spent lots of money to gain their affection; no one worked harder for love and attention.  

 

“But nobody bought it,” Herod realized as he listened to the Magi talk about the new king that’s arrived. After all his hands had done, they wanted to replace him with a so-called “chosen one.” They’ve been waiting for a child to be born, a royal son who would bring light out of darkness and right all his wrongs. 

 

So Herod devised a sinister plan. He called all the scribes and priests in the land to his palace. He asked them to tell him the prophecy, tell him who the child is, when was he born and where can they find him?  

 

So they told him: In Bethlehem of Judah shall come the new ruler. 

 

Feigning gladness, Herod sends the Magi to find this new king and send him a message that he too may worship him. But secretly his heart was darkened by an ancient malice. And in his ear he heard the familiar whisper, as if hissed by a serpent, “His life is in your hands.”

 

The Magi of course, were warned in a dream, to tell Herod nothing about where to find the newborn king. 

 

Realizing the Magi would never speak, Herod became so angry that his hands gripped a hundred swords, broke down a hundred doors, tore a hundred sons from the arms of a hundred moms, struck down a hundred dads that tried to save their babies from ruthless stabs. Those armored hands, guided by demonic sin, made forever still a hundred tiny limbs, and brought darkness to every home and family in Bethlehem. Above the din of flesh and steel, you could hear a hundred Rachels weeping for their children. 

 

But there was one family with one son, Herod’s hands missed. And wherever this boy went, the darkness would lift. You see his family fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s rage. And they would not return until it was safe. So Herod died thinking he succeeded in his plan, to prevent the new-born king from growing into a man. 

 

But Herod failed. God’s plan would prevail. The child would become the Savior of men. And all life and joy and light would be in his hands.