Why the Feast of the Holy Innocents Matters Today

It only takes a moment to pray for innocent victims everywhere and ask for justice, love and peace.

Posted in , Dec 21, 2017

Feast of the Holy Innocents

December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, probably not a red-letter day on your calendar. Most of the time right after Christmas I’m gorging on leftover sweets, using the gift certificates I’ve been given and writing thank-you notes.

But I’m rather glad there’s something on the liturgical calendar to remind me of a very important–and often neglected–part of the Christmas story. It’s not something you ever see in a Christmas pageant.

Remember how the wise men consulted with King Herod in Jerusalem on where to find this newborn king? His advisors told them “Bethlehem” and the wise men headed off, following the star, but not without promising to come back and tell Herod what they had seen.

Herod was a nasty, monstrous, capricious ruler, and he was agitated at the possibility of there being some other king around to challenge his supremacy.

When the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Jerusalem but to go home a different way, Herod was furious. If he’d had the chance he would have had Jesus killed instantly. Instead he decided to kill every male child two years and younger in the region around Bethlehem.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph were safe because they–also warned in a dream–escaped to Egypt and lay low until till Herod died. But think of the horrible tragedy other parents faced. Imagine guards showing up at your house, demanding to see your charming babbling infant and then thrusting in the knife.

What a violent, frightening world Jesus came into. And yet, is it so unlike our own where millions of children all over the world die from malnutrition or wars that are fought by monstrous capricious leaders like the ancient Herod?

We need a Prince of Peace as badly in our world as they did in theirs.

The Slaughter of the Innocents, as it’s generally called, is not something you hear sung in Christmas carols or see in any crèche, but there it is in the Gospel of Matthew, a sobering reminder of why a new king was desperately called for, and a new rule was needed.

It can only be a moment to pray for innocent victims everywhere and ask for justice, love and peace.

Tags: Prayer
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