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She would not be consoled

by davesandel on December 28th, 2021

Tuesday, December 28, 2021                                     (today’s lectionary)

Feast of the Holy Innocents

She would not be consoled

On the day after Christmas the three Salvation Army stores in Austin (and perhaps everywhere) hold a gigantic sale. Everything is 50% off (except new mattresses). Last year we spent about $50 and furnished half our apartment. This year we spent half that on some very cool clothes for our family AND a whole pile of books, kids books mostly ­­- a “feast for the holy innocents.”

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Seems to me like Herod was such an idiot. He was still killing family members who threatened his royal position up until five days before his own death. But even that cannot compare with the blood he spilled in Bethlehem. His massacre of babies in Bethlehem brooks no comparison, and any “feast” for this event would be a funeral feast, never a celebration.

Jasper is barely two. I imagine he would have been killed by a careless soldier’s sword. Families could not protect their babies, and Herod stayed far enough away that he would not hear their awful screams.

How desperately sad Jesus and his own family must have been. Traveling in the night to Egypt, they heard later what happened. Their Bethlehem neighbors and relatives were not spared. How confusing it was. Why would Herod do this? And then, in a moment, Mary and Joseph understood. Understood that as Herod looked for their baby – their son, God’s son, as he looked for Jesus, he would stop at nothing.

Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.

They had escaped by the skin of their teeth. Jesus was safe once more. But how awful to think of those other children, killed.

God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

Would God allow that horror to protect his son? That’s the wrong question, of course. Jesus came to earth for exactly that to happen to him. But in the fullness of time. In a prayer Max Lucado puts into the mouth of Mary (Tiny Mouth, Tiny Feet), she says to her baby:

Sleep deeply, tiny eyes. Sleep while you can. For soon the blurriness will clear, and you will see the mess we have made of your world. You will see our nakedness, for we cannot hide. You will see our selfishness, for we cannot give. You will see our pain, for we cannot heal.

All of that, Jesus takes upon himself, into his own hands.

Your tiny hands are reserved for works more precious, to touch a leper’s open wound, to wipe a widow’s weary tear, to claw the ground of Gethsemane. Your hands, so tiny, so tender, so white, clutched tonight in an infant’s fist, are reserved for a Roman spike, that will staple them to a Roman cross.

My friend Glenda emailed me, telling me that her beloved Buck is gone, the beautiful dog she rescued from a shelter and taught him over several years to trust her, when he had trusted no one for so long.

A few hours later my Aunt Vera called and told us that Uncle Don passed away on Christmas Eve. He had been a baby once, a baby with his own tiny eyes and tiny hands. Then he studied to become a dentist. He dedicated his eyes and hands and wisdom to healing and strengthening people, bringing new smiles to their faces. He touched so many, including men in prison after he “retired,”and brought joy into their lives. He and Aunt Vera were married 69 years. His four children, my cousins Tom and Diane and Nancy and Gary, loved him. And he loved them.

In a confounding moment I am swallowed up by unexpected grief. Sadness for my friend, for my aunt, for all of us.

You will see our pain, for we cannot heal.

I try walking down the street in Bethlehem after the soldiers have ridden away, their adrenalin spent, the wrenching cries of mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers all around me, their weeping and screaming without end.

If we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

But I cannot walk far. I must retreat. Walking backward, unable to turn away completely, I listen and listen for the voice of Jesus. I wait for what I know someday I’ll hear.

Tiny tongue that will soon summon the dead, that will define grace, that will silence our foolishness.

These are the days that try men’s souls (and I mean all days, for all men and all women).

But if we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us.

(1 John 1, Psalm 124, Matthew 2)

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