The Holy Innocents, Martyrs – Matthew 2:13-18
Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:17-18, NRSV)
Dr. Richard Carlson, one of my New Testament professors at Gettysburg Seminary, referred to this passage as “the dark side of Christmas”. The story of the massacre of the innocents is inextricably tied up with the story of Christ’s birth, because it shows us that the incarnation was not all sweetness and light. It is an event that unmasks the powers-that-be, laying bare the lengths to which those in power will go to maintain their place in the world. That a King would feel threatened by a two-year old and strike out in anger and fear speaks volumes about the depths of human depravity. That God would become a vulnerable child speaks volumes about the depth of God’s love for us and for the whole created order. As the Christmas season continues, we pause to remember all those who have been victimized by the lust for power and influence, and we praise God for sending Jesus Christ to announce the beginning of the end of oppression and violence.
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem by order of King Herod. Receive into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims. By your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (From Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 54)
– Pr. Andrew Chavanak, St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Falls City