When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:16-18, (Jeremiah 31:15)
The Sunday after Christmas many Christian churches recognize the Holy Innocents- the children who were killed by Herod’s men two years after the birth of Jesus.
The reference to Rachel is meaning all of the descendants of Jacob- the people of Israel, God’s people.
Ironically Herod never would have to worry about anyone of Jesus’ age being a challenge to his throne. He died not much later than the slaughter of the Innocents.
It seems senseless that Herod would have such an issue with someone who would not have been able to assume any kind of power until long after Herod’s death, but his malice and insecurity- or perhaps even denial of his own inevitable mortality- reached that far.
It seems heartless and barbaric to modern society that such a tragedy would have been permitted to happen, and even sanctioned by the authorities, but senseless slaughter of the young persists even today.
Who is weeping for the loss of their children today? How many young lives in our own community are cut short or badly broken by the evils of chemical dependence, random promiscuity, poverty and violence?
We can look back at the slaughter of the Innocents as a historical event perpetrated by an evil leader, but we can also see how we have our own version of this senseless waste of talent and life going on here and now.
The question in this is, what can we do to protect and empower youth? Not just parents, but the community in general. We may not live to see them thrive and bring about God’s Kingdom on earth, but we can do what we can to protect them and build them up.