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Archive for December 30th, 2013

 Text:  St. Matthew 2:13-23

The Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents: Some accounts number them at more than ten thousand, but more conservative estimates put their number in the low dozens. 10,000 children or 1 child murdered is one child too many.  The picture above  is a painting by Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – 1337).   It is eerily prescient of  the many pictures of the bodies of Jews in piles in the concentration camps. Their only crime was they were of the same religion as the One born this holy season.  It makes no sense.  Neither does any abuse of children sexually, physically and/or emotionally from Newtown to our town.

Herod the Great was probably a functional atheist; he thought he ruled by his own right and authority.  He was his own god as all dictators and tyrants vainly and terribly imagine themselves.  We read a lot about the atheism of a Christopher Hitchens, but he pales to the tyrants. With no fear of God in the multitude of  Herods, it seems in our days and centuries and it’s lack of the fear of the Lord, we are in the most functionally atheistic of all time.  We do what we please.  Children are expendable. We are own gods.

The gripping movie, Judgment at Nuremberg  is about the trials after World War II of the lower level Nazis, in particular, the judges who sent the ‘mental defectives’, and other “undesirables” to their deaths after a “legal trial”.  A key character is the  fictional judge, Ernst Janning (played by Burt Lancaster).  He was known in the Weimar as one of the greatest legal minds in Germany.  He participated in the crimes against humanity for the Nazis yet he knew it was wrong.  In one of the last scenes of the movie, Herr Janning asks the main American judge, Hayward (played by Spencer Tracy) to come and visit him in his prison cell.  It turns out for the reason that Janning wanted a kind of absolution:

Janning: Those people, those millions of people. I never knew it would come to that. You must believe that, you must believe that.

Judge Hayward:  Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

The death of one man or one child makes it easy for the autonomous, ‘kingly’, ‘great’ self to kill more and more. Mother Theresa said, “… if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.”  It took one Child to reverse the sin of Adam.  The holy innocents unwilling death and the grief of Rachel, their mothers,  weeping for them who are “no more”, fulfilled the Scripture that the Child of Mary would die as One for them all.  

The murder of even one child, spiritually and/or physically, begins the spiral into hell, for a person, a  church, a nation, a family. When Israel rebelled, Isaiah tells us in today’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah 63:7-14:

But they rebelled
    and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
    and himself fought against them.

The Lord became their own enemy because we our own worse enemy.  People will go to great lengths – even kill, even kill their own babies,  to preserve their self-esteem, social status, economic viability, popularity amongst friends, or even for reasons as vain as their “girly figure” and thus tilt the balance of this world’s favor toward themselves.  Trying to save themselves and their trivial treasures, the world enacts Herod’s decree again and again and again as they hurt one another, abort their children, and follow the forked tongue of the serpent against holy families and the holy one of God.   (Pr. Tony Sikora’s sermon on same text) Recently Thrivent for Lutherans in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota has been giving their “choice dollars” to Planned Parenthood, purveyor and promoter of abortion.  After a protest from Pastor Harrison, President of the LCMS and the Wisconsin Evangelical LutheranSynod, they stopped it but they also stopped all monies going to pro-life groups. “We recognize that the eligibility of a Planned Parenthood affiliate, approved by one of our local chapters, has been controversial.” Abortion isn’t controversial; it is evil. Abortion is intrinsically immoral, essentially and immutably wrong. (Pr. Todd Wilken)

 Too controversial.  We are killing ourselves by the plummeting birthrate instead of heeding the  Lord’s command to be fruitful and multiply.  Too controversial.  We are to receive His children in His Name.  And so the Lord Jesus set great store about the faith of a child which must be inviolate.  This is only a  speculation:  Jesus’ Mother and Step Father may have eventually told Him what had happened on the day of infamy in Bethlehem.  The Lord Jesus Christ taught as a man:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

His love begins with one child, first protected by His Law, “Thou shalt not murder” and now by His Resurrection. The Child was called out of Egypt, God’s Son, so that all children could have His Kingdom by Baptism and faith.  The Son, the Child called out of Egypt, the Exodus is His Body and Blood, circumcised on the 8th day, desires for all to believe in Him…and preventing them a millstone fastened  around his neck and drowned is suitable. Out of Egypt, the Father called His Son, His true Son, who did not rebel, the Child born for us. The Lord became a child to make us His children and so we are;  as Paul wrote in today’s Epistle, Galatians 4:4-7: our adoption as the Lord’s sons and daughters.  The Child gives the childless hope, the loveless love, the faithless faith, in the great exchange:   His health for our sickness, His love for  us His enemies, His wisdom for the foolish to make us His own, His death  for our life, His resurrection for our eternal life, so we are born again, His baptized to receive children, from day 1 to the 100th year, in His Name, baptizing them, as we have been by His grace alone, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

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At this time of the year, the sentiment above is expressed.  It is well meant.  In today’s reflection by Pr. Scott Murray in his book,    A Year with the Church Fathers: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year, he notes that birthdays are for the person whereas our Lord’s birth day is for us. “For me?!”, the surprised birthday boy exclaims.  The Lord’s birth is for  us.  His Incarnation is for us:   “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (St. Luke 2: 11;  emphasis my own).   In fact, our human fallen nature, our sinful self, is very much against God (see Romans 5:10;  Ephesians 2:1-3)  The wonder of His coming is that He is for us because we are so against ourselves.   How do we know this?  Before the Lord is for us, He is very much against us in His Law which His Law shows that we disobey. Maybe the other “reason for the season” is sinners.  There are only sinners around the manger, the first sign of His coming and the last sign of His redemption:  His Cross.  Happy Birthday to Jesus?  Maybe it is all of heaven rejoicing over a sinner’s repentance and the Lord saying as He baptizes us: Happy New Birthday to You! (Luke 15:7).  “For me?  You shouldn’t have.  I don’t deserve it”.  “Now you are beginning to believe!”

FOR YOU!

“…for us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man…” (The Nicene Creed)

 

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