Monday, December 29, 2008

Holy Innocents' Day

Isaiah 49:13-23
vv. 14-15 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.

Remembering the slaughter of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod is not a pleasant thing. Most of us would skip over this gruesome feast day if we could.

But we can't, of course, for the sake of all innocents who die before their time at the hands of others, whether of malevolent intent or not. These days in war we call them "collateral damage," a euphemism that betrays them. To name them "holy innocents" is to name them correctly.

The Bible wishes us to do a lot of this, correct our naming. Our euphemisms hide the truth in an attempt to protect our comfort. They are a lie, pure and simple, and the Bible will have none of it. The death of an innocent is murder, no matter the intention behind it. Everyone, even the hardest of our military commanders knows this is the truth. Certainly our soldiers do and it is a significant part of the difficulty they have in processing their experience of war.

The death of innocents raises the age old question of just where God is when stuff like this happens. Has God forgetten them? Even ancient Israel asked this question, as the reading for this morning says. The answer is no, I have not forgotten. It is possible for you to forget, even under the best of circumstances, and that forgetting can be death dealing. But I will never forget you.

The prayer for the day prays well

We remember before you today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of youyr mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord...

We might only amend the prayer to say "frustrate all our evil designs." This, too, is to correctly name the problem. It is not just some evil "them." It is also well-intentioned "us."

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