Wednesday, 13 December 2017

In His Name All Oppression Shall Cease

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

The Massacre of the Innocents is not one of the Christmas narratives the Western church tends to dwell on.

These verses in Matthew are a horrific account of the brutal execution of thousands of innocent children.

When Herod learns the magi are looking for a new-born King, he is alarmed and disturbed by this potential threat to his power: He is determined to control the situation and protect himself. He tells the men searching for Jesus to let him know where they have found him so that “I too may come and worship him,” but when it becomes clear that control has slipped beyond his grasp and the magi will not return, he is livid and more outraged than ever.

In a typically futile, typically dictatorial attempt to secure his own supremacy the paranoid, ruthless ruler orders that every boy under the age of two born in Bethlehem be slaughtered.

And they are.

Thousands of innocent children suffer under one person’s savage desire to stay in control.

As a result there is weeping and loud lamentation and no place for comfort.

It’s tempting to write this off as an obscure event from antiquity.

But children across the globe, today, in Syria, in Yemen, … suffer similar atrocities: victims of decisions made by power-grabbing adults in worlds far removed from their little spheres. War marches into child-sized lives and brings with it displacement, violence, hunger. The Massacre of the Innocents is not an event from antiquity, but a fitting title for much of our own era.

Perhaps it is tempting to see the Massacre as being something relevant then to other places: insane, and evil, but nothing to do with me in my calm, measured, bloodshed free life.

Recently I’ve realised that I don’t have as much of a leg to stand on in my scorn of Herod as I would like. I’ve realised that I have a similar reckless determination to rule my own life and protect my own reputation in a way that shows no regard for how it might make the undeserving suffer. I, too, have railed so violently against the threat of another king, come to reign over my world and life and choices.

So often when I want to be king in my own life, it is those who deserve to least that suffer most at the hands of my temper and selfishness.

Not least, the boy in the manger.

In Bethlehem, the baby escaped an execution at the hands of sinful men- for the time being. He did not escape being an innocent sufferer. A few decades later, he faced execution, again. And the King of the Jews suffered, and then died as a consequence of countless ‘wannabe’ kings desperate to terminate his rightful rule.

I am not Herod. But I am responsible for the suffering of an Innocent.

I am not Herod. But I am also not a good King.

Like Herod, my rule of my own life results in anguish and weeping and mourning that cannot be comforted.

But into the manger is born a King,  in whose name all oppression shall cease. He is a king who who surrenders his power, who serves the weak, who brings comfort to the mourning, who will grow up and shepherd his people until he lays down his life for them. He is a king who will reign on David’s throne forever, and of the increase of his government and of his peace there will be no end.

Carol: O Holy Night

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