December 28, 2017 – The Holy Innocents, Rachel Still Weeps- Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:5

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When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: (see Jeremiah 31:15)

 “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 2:16-18 (NRSV)

 

Recently we talked about how Jesus came to earth not to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

Those who are in power wish to remain in power. Powerful people will go to great lengths to maintain and grow their influence.  Herod saw Jesus as an earthly threat to his throne.  Herod dealt with the challenge to his power by attempting to eliminate it.  Jesus was spared Herod’s knife only because His parents were warned to take him to Egypt for a time to avoid Herod’s assassins.

Sadly, while Jesus was spared, scores of innocent children were massacred in the name of one man’s insecurity. Unfortunately the slaughter of innocents continues today. Children die untimely deaths every day- some from illness or accident, some from neglect and abuse. Some are simply sacrificed because they offend their parents’ sense of economy or timing, or they carry a genetic flaw. This world is not a safe place for children.

The correlation between slaughter and power is as old as time. The old kingdoms and the old paradigms don’t go away without a fight, even when the change of regime is good and ultimately necessary.  The problem with the fight over power is that the sacrifice and the suffering are most often borne by the most fragile and vulnerable.

It is a sad reality that children still die in the name of convenience, from lack of material resources, as collateral damage in war, and at the brutal hands of abusers.

There are some who would say if God is a gracious and good God, why does He permit this to continue on? Why did He allow it then, and why does it still go on now?

There is no easy or acceptable answer to the question of human evil. Jesus came into this world of suffering and evil as a vulnerable child and entered into the human experience with us, but evil is still with us.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5 (NRSV)

Perhaps our calling as Jesus followers is to let His light shine in and through us- even when we are surrounded by darkness, death and evil that we can’t understand or conquer alone.

Jesus came into our world precisely because we so desperately need the light that darkness cannot overcome. Evil and suffering exist but that is not the end of the story.  There will come a day when no mother will weep for her children.

 

 

December 28, 2016- The Holy Innocents, Rachel Crying for Her Children, Because They Are No More- Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18

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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.

December 22, 2016- Wise Men and Kings, Matthew 2:1-2, Matthew 2:13-18

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In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” Matthew 2:1-2 (NRSV)

Herod wasn’t exactly a nice guy.  Especially when anyone threatened his sovereignty.  Herod saw himself as being In Charge, and anyone who may have been seen as a challenge to that control was seen as a threat to be neutralized. Later, when Herod learned that Jesus was indeed the long foretold King of the Jews, born in Bethlehem, he ordered what was to be known as the Slaughter of the Innocents-

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 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 2:16-18 (NRSV)

Historically not much is known about the wise men from the east.  Legend has it that there were three, however, the Bible does not give a number.  There may have been two, or twenty.  The important part of the story is that they followed the star that was put forth as a sign, and they searched after Jesus without even really being aware of what His coming meant for the world and for humanity. They also took heed to the warning given to them in a dream not to return to Herod, allowing time for Jesus’ family to take Him to safety in Egypt during this time. (Matthew 7:13-15)

It is said that “wise men still seek Him.”  But do we really seek God with diligence in everything we do, and in everyone we encounter?

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8 (NRSV)

Wisdom isn’t necessarily found as much in the answers as in asking the right questions.  When we search and knock and ask God we might not get the answers we think we are going to get.  The wise men sought after an earthly king- but they discovered what appeared to be a poor family with a infant that was born in an animal barn.

Did they know that they found the King of Kings?  Are we seeking Him also?

Are we asking the right questions?  Are we listening to the answers, and the warnings that God gives us?