Fear . . . and the Death of Innocents

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On Wednesday of this week, the Church remembered The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the conclusion of Christmas and the beginning of the season of Epiphany. In this season, we remember those events in Jesus’ life were his Lordship was revealed to various peoples.

As my priest Matthew noted on Sunday, during the joyous season of Christmas, we celebrated some pretty “gritty” events of Christian history—the Feast of Saint Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, celebrated the day after Christmas, followed two days later by the Feast of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem. In the Feast of the Holy Innocents we remember the many children and infants slaughtered by King Herod in an attempt to kill Jesus. The story of those Holy Innocents of Bethlehem is anticipated in the Gospel reading for Epiphany, which begins:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

“And all Jerusalem with him” were frightened. Like peoples everywhere, the citizens of Jerusalem had grown comfortable with the current system. Fear is a strong argument when it comes to politics—fear of the ‘other,’ especially. Bishop Dietsche addressed this very issue in the politics of our day in “The Bishop’s Message” in the current edition of The Episcopal New Yorker:

We are watching as an alarming number of Americans, and many who would be our leader, are insisting in what could pass for apocalyptic times that the desired peace can only be found by filling more prisons; by demonizing Moslems and every immigrant; by building higher walls behind which to hide; by fearing and shunning the stranger at the gate, even the naked hungry refuge; and by making more and more war. My God. Not as these false prophets give peace does Jesus give peace.

“And all Jerusalem with him” were frightened. Fear is a strong argument that our politicians—and apparently Herod, too—wield to get in power, but we, as Christians, are called to “fear not” and put our trust in God. As Bishop Dietsche goes on to say:

 . . . turn away from the false idol of Safety-Safety-Safety to take the risk of connection and communion and going deeper and trying out what it might mean to all-be-one-as-Christ-and-the-Father-are-one.

Don’t let the Herods of our day lead us to believe that our safety requires the killing of our innocents—our Holy Innocents.

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