Feast of the Holy Innocents
King Herod was scared of a baby. King Herod was so scared of a baby, that he ordered the massacre of every child under the age of two in Bethlehem just to try to kill that one baby. Thanks be to God, baby Jesus escaped the wrath of Herod. Today, the feast of the Holy Innocents, we remember all those babies who did not escape the wrath of Herod. All those babies who were killed due to one man’s fear.
The slaughter of babies is not a pleasant subject, especially during the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Christian church has been observing the feast of the Holy Innocents for over fifteen hundred years. That’s a long time. Clearly something important is going on here. Some lesson that needs to be relearned yearly, again and again over the course of centuries.
Consider what parts of the story are timeless. What is just as true now as it was then? Certainly the evil ordered by Herod to slaughter babies is timeless. It is just as evil to us now as it was then. It was an evil fueled by fear, anger, and power. Three poisons with timeless potency.
If ever we find ourselves wondering if God really cares, we have only to look upon the strong but gentle face of Jesus to see the Love of God written for all to see. “No one has ever seen God,” the gospel writer reminds us, “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18).
-Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
Come gaze at the Word Made Flesh
Oh, come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.
Oh, come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him, born the King of angels;
Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord!
Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem carved this olivewood set. Each year we invite guests to come look at it after services, to look from several angles, and to bend down to see it up close. We Brothers are pleased to share it with you.
Jesus is already a king. He wears a crown of eternal being, not because of what he has accomplished but because of who he is. What Christ does is important, but more important still is the fact that his actions flow from his identity, from his love, from his being.
-Br. Lucas Hall, SSJE
Your own life is a Christmas gift from God to the world. There’s a lot of bad news in our world. Hear the news as a clarion call for what we are to be about as followers of Jesus Christ: to bear the beams of God’s love and light and life, especially to those who wouldn’t otherwise know it. In a dark place, even a little bit of light will have a brilliant effect.
-Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
It was in the midst of great darkness that the life and light of God became enfleshed in the child called Jesus. In Jesus, God sent out a beacon of light, that all who are lost in this great night might see it and turn towards it, in order to find their way home.
-Br. Jim Woodrum, SSJE
We are just two days past the Feast of Christmas on which we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into the world as a tiny babe in Bethlehem. The familiar stories bring comfort and hope: the young girl and her husband searching for a safe place for the birth to take place, the shepherds in their fields surprised by choirs of angels in the heavens; the wise men guided by a mysterious star. Each story bears a promise, a promise from God.
To Mary God’s messenger proclaimed a son, to be named Jesus, which means “savior.” He would be great, the Son of the Most High, and would receive from God the throne of his ancestor David. He would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there would be no end. (Luke 1:31-33)
To the shepherds the angel announced “good news of great joy for all the people,” namely that the child born this day in the city of David would be “a Savior… the Messiah, the Lord.” “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” the choir of angels sang, “and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” (Luke 2:8-14)
In a world dark with violence and war, we are to shine with the light of Christ, bear the yoke of Christ, decide for the kingdom of God which Christ brings. The less we live a lie, the more we live with integrity as God’s people. We are called to dedicate ourselves anew to Wisdom’s teaching, love and truth, for we ourselves embody the fullness of Christ for our own and the world’s healing.
-Br. Jonathan Maury, SSJE
“The Word was made flesh and lived among us.”
Amazing, wondrous flesh: a baby with bright eyes and smile, tiny fingers, a bundle of new living love. Fragile, frail flesh: reliant on others for food, warmth, provision. Whether child, youth, adult, or elder, even with great care, each will sicken and die. Connected, touching flesh: face-to-face baby and parents bond before and beyond words. Human bodies relate in families and communities both given and chosen. Looking at each other, faces light up and we know love. The Word became flesh—amazing, fragile, connected—and lived among us.
Disconnected this year, we long to be together in the flesh, to see and touch, hug and hold. Fragile and frail, we mourn the dead and dying, struggle to tend the sick, to care for each other, to make ends meet. We are weary from so much change and adaptation.
Being human is amazing. Remember the wonder of our breath, every movement we make, our capacity for imagination and discovery, for being playful and creative. Remember how skin and other organs work to protect from and then restore after injury. Remember the healing power of touch, listening, tears, and laughter.
God became human in Jesus, to live as one of us. “Pleased with us in flesh to dwell Jesus our Emmanuel.”[i] God was pleased to fully immerse into being human. The “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Mighty God, … Prince of Peace”[ii]came and still comes for, with, and as one of us. Jesus longs with us, mourns with us, and with a twinkling eye reminds us of amazing bodies and wondrous love.
Look at the Child of Bethlehem. We have hope. God still comes. Take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. With one hand on your heart, reach out to another. This is a way to show and feel affection on Zoom. Though distant, we are still connected. Look to the glory embodied, and share the love. Merry Christmas!
[i] Charles Wesley, 1739, alt. “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!” verse 2
[ii] Isaiah 9:6