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Kill This Child, He Said

December 26, 2015

It’s not a nice warm fuzzy part of Christmas.

It’s the part of the Christmas story, the Bible’s birth and infancy of Christ Jesus narrative, that we skip over.

Traditionally called “The Suffering of the Innocents,” you can read about in Matthew 2. But we seldom do. I don’t think I’ve ever talked or written about it much, if at all, prior to this moment with you.

It’s interwoven with the pilgrimage to The Christ Child by those mysterious visitors from The East, of whom we know very little. In fact, despite that familiar Christmas Carol that has us happily singing about three of them, we don’t even know how many  visitors with gifts there were.

But it’s the second part of Matthew 2 that’s troublesome. And that’s an understatement.

Short version: Herod wanted to kill this child, this Newborn King, but couldn’t find him, so he ordered “the murder of every little boy two years old and under.” (Matthew 2:16, The Message version)

Except for Jesus. Joseph had been warned in a dream to escape to Egypt and hide until it was safe to return.

No show of hands, but anybody else got questions?

Come over here and sit with the suffering. Maybe you’re already there, and the rest of us are joining you.

Sadness and Christmas are interwoven for some people. Without addressing Matthew 2’s tragedy beyond using it as a reference point or springboard, I’d like to bring in a guest. He and I’ve never met, but wait ’til you hear what he has to say.

His name’s Christopher J. H. Wright (yup, two middle initials, just like a former U.S. President). I’m guessing his friends call him Chris. He’s written The Message of Lamentations. Let’s listen in as he answers some questions from another context* about suffering and God —

Q: Unlike in Job and many of the Psalms, God says nothing to the writer of Lamentations. What should we make of his silence?

A: One commentator, Kathleen O’Connor, calls God’s silence “inspired.” God allows the suffering people to have their full say. He listens, without interrupting to comfort or correct. [And] although God does not speak as a character in the book, he speaks by including it in his Word, within the canon of Scripture.

Lamentations, as O’Connor says, provides a bottle for the tears of this world.

— Our Bibles are littered with suffering. Or maybe they’re peppered with suffering. Or maybe…just maybe…Scripture is once again being painfully realistic.

If you need “a bottle for the tears of” this holiday season, our new friend Chris Wright has more to say to you. See you back here tomorrow.


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  1. Nina permalink

    Not one Christmas has gone by when my husband and pastor did not include the Slaughter of the Innocents. He would see it as the betrayal of the dear friends through whom we met, whose suffering on the death of their teen-aged son to cancer was often increased by well-meaning Christians offering useless platitudes.


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