Matthew 2:7-12, 16-18 NRSV
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. . . . . 16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
Matthew quotes Jeremiah with words of deep inconsolable grief. It is worth recalling that the lament of Rachel in this scripture from Matthew is part of our Christmas story. It is a part we don’t share with our children. It comes in the wake of King Herod’s order that innocent children be slaughtered. Herod wanted to kill the hope of the Christ child.
But that hope could not be killed – even by earth shattering violence, even by irrational rage, even by tragic evil. THERE IS HOPE YET.
As a congregation, we join in prayer and support for the community of Newtown and for all who suffer at the hands of violence this day. Violence we are aware of and the violence that goes on, but we never see. Let us be open to the pain, that we may also be open to healing and work toward the prevention of harm in our world.
Prayer: Today, Lord, we are hurting. Our hearts overflow with anguish. Our hearts cry out – why? We have uncontrolled feelings of grief. Homes just like ours have children and adults missing from the family circle. Homes just like ours are hurting without understanding or reason. We pray for parents of children barely older than those we welcome into our preschool every day and we pray for their teachers. We pray with our own children in mind. Violence has once again touched us and we are overwhelmed. O Lord, meet us in our hurting.
Rev. Tom Rough