A compelling truth of the biblical writings handed on to us is this: there is no flinching when facing truths that are painful, revealing of human weakness and wickedness, and even violent. So it is that every year the church remembers the events recorded in Matthew 2:13-18 in which we are told “[Herod] … killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under” (v. 16)
This day (usually remembered on December 28th) is called the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The Collect of the Day remembers and intercedes in Christ’s name: “We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;”
It is in stories such as this one, it is in Feast Days like this one, that I find the weakness of the “Prosperity Gospel” and find the flaw with those who see Christianity as a way to escape suffering and pain or, worse still, as being uncaring about the suffering and pain that surrounds all of humanity. From the time before Jesus, in his own day, and in every day since and yet to come, the faithful are acquainted with pain and suffering. And yet, in every age, including our own day, women and men of faith have not been defeated by evil, by pain, or by suffering. There continues to be a hope expressed by the Psalmist that “Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:8 (the Psalm appointed for today).
For all who have had to bury a child, for all who have had to bury a grandchild, my heart goes out to you. Earlier today I tried to express my gratitude to those men and women who have touched my life while having to face this terrifying pain and walk through this dark valley. I tried to tell them, as I tell you now, how much I have learned from them about life, about living, about faith in the face of death, even the death of a child.
I do not know the depth of their pain nor the depth of the threatening darkness, I can only imagine what it must be. However, I am well aware of their faith; I am well aware that they have not been defeated by even so great a loss. I am in awe of their faith and their ability to go through the pain (for I have learned from them that though it lessens in intensity over time there is really no end point to the pain and it still can surprise and stun a person years, even decades, later). I am humbled by the faith I have witnessed. I am indeed grateful for the teaching of these remarkable women and men.
I pray that, even in the threatening darkness of death, especially the death of a child, we will find each other and together confront the darkness with the faith that says in death life changes it does not end. I pray we will find the truth of the presence of God to comfort and heal and give us light enough to find our way while finding those companions on the way who will walk with us in our moment of need.May God bless us all.