When Herod the Great met the wise men, he sent them on their way with instructions to return and tell him when they had found Jesus. But what if Herod also sent someone else? Someone to follow them and find out where they went?
What if Herod sent a secret policeman?
Herod's Secret Policeman is a new resource from Open Doors for children and families. It tells the story of Secret Policeman Number 3 - a spy sent by Herod to follow the magi and report back where they went.
You can order a free 24pp storybook to give away. There is also a video version – great for Advent or Christmas services – as well as a teaching session and a free, downloadable make your own nativity scene activity.
Obviously, our version adds a fictional element to the nativity story. But the interesting thing is that it does have some historical precedent. Because Herod the Great did really did have lots of spies.
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus recorded that Herod did everything he could to keep his people under surveillance. Josephus says that he ‘watched everything they did’, and that ‘there were spies set everywhere, both in the city and in the roads, who watched those that met together’. Josephus even claims that Herod would sometimes disguise himself as an ordinary person and go out to listen to what people were saying about him!
So even some 2,000 years ago there were dictators who spied on their own people.
And that is really the point of this resource. Herod's Secret Policeman is designed to help people – young and old – to reflect on the connection between the nativity story in Luke and Matthew, and the world of the persecuted church today.
Today there are still people living under surveillance, or in countries controlled by paranoid rulers; we still hear stories of people experiencing dreams and visions from God, and of those who choose to follow Jesus and must then flee for their lives.
Because today there are still a lot of ‘Herods’ in the world – rulers and dictators who are every bit as cruel as he was, and who demand complete obedience from the people they rule. And, of course, there are still a lot of secret policemen – who spy on their own people, record anyone acting suspiciously and raid the homes of Christians.
But the good news is that there are still a lot of ‘shepherds’ and ‘wise men’ around as well – people who know how special Jesus is and choose to follow him, even though it might put them in danger.
So we hope that you will use Herod's Secret Policeman with your church or family this Christmas.
Because, as the opening line of the story says: ‘This is a story about something that happened a long time ago, but which is still happening today.’
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.