Slaughter of the Innocents

As Christmas music fades and Christmas trees get taken down, the nativity scene is still on the altar at our church.  It will still be there next Sunday, on Epiphany, the day we remember the Magi who brought gifts to present to the Christ Child.

The story of the Magi, from the gospel of Matthew, is strikingly political, and highlights how the author understood the significance of Jesus’ birth–as a threat to the ruling Powers of the world.  It culminates in “The Slaughter of the Innocents,”  with soldiers killing small children so a genocidal king can hold onto his throne.    Matthew summarizes the story with the words from Jeremiah:  “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children;  she refused to be consoled because they were no more.” (Matthew 2:18)

There are many famous works of art about this story, but I cannot bring myself to use them with this blog posting.  They are all too poignant and we are all too raw.   But I am including two versions of Coventry Carol, which was written in the 16th century to commemorate this tragic part of the Christmas story.

Violence.  Terror.  Slaughter of innocents.  Like today, in Newtown, in our inner cities, in communities in other countries hit by our drones.

How can we respond to such tragedy?  What is the antidote?  Where is the healing?

Certainly not with more guns, more hi-tech weapons, more violence.  The  only antidote I can see is an awakening to the Love that is at the heart of the universe, the Love that is core to every faith tradition, the Love that embraces us as we are, enables us to face our part in the violence that plagues us as a people, forgives and heals our brokenness, nurtures new life blossoming within and around us, transforms us and works through us to transform the world.

Coventry Carol by Sting:

Coventry Carol by Joan Baez:

Coventry Carol (Lyrics)

Lully, Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, luly, lullay.

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