As some of you know, I have been a Lutheran Pastor for over forty years. As Lutherans, we pay attention to the liturgical year. The 28th of December is designated as “The Holy Innocents, Martyrs” day. On this day we remember how wicked King Herod went on a rampage and killed innocent baby boys after the birth of Jesus, due to his fear of a king being born. We read in Matt 2: 16 that Herod “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.” As Max Lucado prayed, “Joseph took you (Jesus) into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene”. Imagine the fear, confusion and uncertainty for young Joseph and Mary as they hastily flee to Egypt. They escaped the slaughter of the innocent because God came to Joseph in a dream, saying, “get up take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Men, we have just experienced the slaughtering of the innocent in Newtown, Conn. The words from a sermon by the prophet Jeremiah, quoted in Matthew to describe the emotional response of the slaughter of little boys under the age of two in Bethlehem become a cry of our hearts today. “A sound was heard in Ramah, weeping and much lament. Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace, Her children gone, dead and buried.” (Matt 2:18 – The Message). (Ramah was a village near Bethlehem, the place of Rachel’s birth). We can join in the lament of the good folks in Ramah. Why this slaughter? Imagine the questions that Joseph had when he came back with Mary and Jesus. Why this slaughter? How does this relate to the coming of the “Savior.” Would Joseph feel some responsibility for this slaughter? Scripture never answers our questions. We are left with the slaughter of the innocence by a wicked King.
So today, we have no good answers for the slaughter of the innocence in Newtown, except to say that we know that there is evil in our world. There are times when we are confronted with its stark reality. Make no mistake, men, our post-modern culture can gloss over the idea that wickedness is not caught in the human heart. But Newtown proves otherwise. I like very much what Mark Galli from Christianity Today had to say about the innocence of Jesus. It helps me live with the reality of the loss of so many innocent lives
“Like the one whose innocence was like no other’s. One innocent and holy and precious to the Father, so special it is said that they were one, like no other Father and Son are one. One in essence….You would have thought that the Power and the Glory would have stepped in with thunderbolts when the world conspired to kill his Innocent One. But this God did not do anything then either. And the Son did not rage at the cruel injustice and the waste of a good life at the hands of evil men. All he could seem to say was a prayer that his murderers, who he said did not know what they were doing, be forgiven….Such an odd and strange pair, this Father and Son. The one giving up innocence into the hands of evil. The other forgiving evil as if – well, as if love really is the ultimate reality in the universe.”
Men, as always we need to turn our hearts and minds unto the Lord Jesus. Remember, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Cry out to God in lament. Shout if you have to do so; pound the walls. But get it out – the anger, the fear, the sorrow, the pain and the confusion. Jesus bore it all as the innocent one for you. With him you can move on in new hope and strength, with so many unanswered questions
I close with another part of Max Lucado’s prayer. “Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger. This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.”