Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holy Innocents

Today we recalled the story of the little boys at Bethlehem who were slaughtered by Herod in his attempt to kill the Christ-child (Matthew 2). Matthew recalls the prophecy from Jeremiah about Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more.

Pastor talked today about that inability to be comforted. Of course there was deep grief over the heinous death of the children. But there was more.

The rumor mill had been going for two years or more by this time. That old priest came out of evening prayers at the temple, unable to speak. His old wife became pregnant. At the child's circumcision party, the priest is prophesying about the Messiah's arrival. Everybody was talking about it. Then there were those shepherds telling everybody about that business of angels in the sky, and the baby in the barn, and a savior. Tongues were wagging -- Simeon knew what day to show up at the temple so that he could meet Mary and Joseph and see God in their arms. And then there was that retinue of the magi who showed up and set everybody a-tremblin' because Herod got news of a rival king. (And they all knew that a ticked-off Herod would result in no happy thing.)

The faithful had been waiting for the Messiah.

The Jews had been waiting for their version of a messiah, one who would kick out the Romans and restore their nation.

Luke tells us over and over that these events "were made widely known."

So when Herod wiped out all the babies around Bethlehem, it wasn't "just" an atrocity (not unlike legalized abortion). But it also looked like he had thwarted God's plans to send His Messiah. No wonder the women were despairing. They had lost not only their babies, but it appeared they had lost also their Savior and all their hopes.

It reminds me of Abraham, being asked to kill the one who was his son, but who was also the one through whom the Savior would come.

And yet, both times, God knew what He was doing. It sure didn't look like it. It looked like He had reneged on His promises, letting His people down, and doing it in a most painful way.

And yet,
things are not what they appear.

(So why do I always tend to believe appearances instead of the Promise?)

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