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Archive for December 28th, 2016

 

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, the martyred innocents of Bethlehem showed forth Your praise not by speaking but by dying.  Put to death in us all that is in conflict with Your will that our lives may bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  Matthew’s Gospel tells of King Herod’s vicious plot against the infant Jesus after being “tricked” by the Wise Men.  Threatened by the one “born King of the Jews,”  Herod murdered all the children in  and around Bethlehem who were two years old or younger (Matthew 2: 16-18).  these “innocents,” commemorated just three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth, remind us not only  of the terrible brutality of which human beings are capable but more significantly of the persecution Jesus endured from the beginning of His earthly life.  Although Jesus’ life was providentially spared at this time, many years later, another ruler, Pontius Pilate, would sentenece the innocent Jesus to death. (From:  The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: “Some accounts number them at more than ten thousand, but more conservative estimates put their number in the low dozens.” (from the Wikipedia article)  10,000 children or 1 child murdered is one child too many.  The image above by Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – 1337), 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 the abuse of children sexually, physically and/or emotionally.

Herod 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.  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.

Judgement at Nuremberg is a movie  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 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.  In one of the last scenes of the movie, Herr Janning asks the main judge (played by Spencer Tracy) to come and visit him in his prison cell.  Janning wants to give a defense of his actions in Nazi Germany, but the Judge will have no part in it:

Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood… the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it, You must believe it!

Judge Dan Haywood: 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.  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.

And so the Lord Jesus set great store about the faith of child which must be inviolate.  This is only 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 youturn 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.

God’s love begins with one child, receiving that child into heaven, just as the murder of even one, spiritually and/or physically, begins the spiral into hell. We are to receive His children in His Name.

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