Wednesday 28 December 2011

Bible Book:

because they are no more." (v. 15)

Jeremiah 31:15-17 (Holy Innocents) Wednesday 28 December 2011


When the wise men arrived from the east, searching for "thechild who has been born king of the Jews" (Matthew2:2), King Herod, threatened by the prospect, requested thatthey tell him where the child is to be found. Having located himand offered their gifts, however, they "left for their own countryby another road" (Matthew 2:12). In an attempt to get rid of thechild Jesus, Herod had all the male children in and aroundBethlehem, under the age of two, killed. Joseph and Mary, with theinfant Jesus, fled to Egypt and remained there until Herod wasdead.

This distressing tale is described in Matthew's Gospel (Matthew2:16-18) as a fulfilment of the words spoken through theprophet Jeremiah which form our reading today. The children whowere killed became known as 'the Holy Innocents' and have beenconsidered martyrs from the early days of the Church. The numbersinvolved were probably fewer than sometimes depicted but thisdoesn't diminish the horror of the episode.

The verses from Jeremiah do include a message of comfort and hopebut it is insightful that Rachel "refuses to be comforted for herchildren, because they are no more". Lamentation and bitter weepingare appropriate responses to tragedy however it manifests itself.And lamentation must not be hurried or even bypassed. For hope everto become tangible and for light and healing ever to emerge thejourney through lamentation must be endured.

In the midst of lamentation, of course, the message of this seasonis of relevance. God is with us, however tragic the circumstances.This does not remove us from the situation; it assures us that onewho has been through the darkest of times accompanies us on ourjourney.

To Ponder

Humankind has the potential to inflict great eviland suffering on itself. Do you find this undermines your belief inGod or strengthens it? How?

British people often pride themselves on having'a stiff upper lip'. And Christians are sometimes encouraged to'always look on the bright side of life'. Have these impulses everinhibited your ability to lament? And what is the value of properlyembracing lamentation?

Reflecting on difficult and dark times in yourlife to date, try and identify how God has accompanied you on yourjourney.

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