[I am offering a brief devotion for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.]
The Church has on the Fourth Day of Christmas traditionally remembered the death of the Holy Innocents, those male children two years old and younger who were killed by order of Herod in his effort to destroy the recently born “King of the Jews” about whom the Magi had told him.
The Bible’s description of those events is, needless to say, a horribly brutal picture in the midst of what we usually think of as an otherwise beautiful narrative.
The biblical account of the slaughter of those children and the Church’s insistence on remembering them just three days after Christmas Day reminds us of some important if difficult truths.
First, Jesus was born into the real world with its real tragedies and its real cruelties. When he is born in us today, he continues to be born into such circumstances. All we have to do to know that is to open our eyes—at risk to our hearts.
Second, God’s ways always threaten those in power and when those in power are threatened they will sometimes strike back with fury. The Prince of Peace once said that he came not to bring peace but a sword; while conflict and destruction is not his way it is all too often the way of the world. Sometimes the innocent—such as those children in Bethlehem who had nothing to do with anything—will get caught up in that conflict.
On this day on which we remember the children who died in Bethlehem, let us remember the children and other innocents who are dying all around us. Let us also ponder whether and, if so, how, our witness to Christ challenges the powers that be—and if we are ready to pay the price such challenges can precipitate.
On this Fourth Day of Christmas, may God show us the high price that is paid for grace…