…The angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph with the command: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you otherwise. Herod is searching for the child to destroy him.” Joseph got up and took the child and his mother and left that night for Egypt… Once Herod realized he had been deceived by the astrologers, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys two years old and under in Bethlehem and its environs… Matthew 2:13-18
Let’s be honest this day, and remember that in the midst of this week of Christmas, there is reason for both lamentation and celebration. We can celebrate because we know Jesus has been born and is with us, because we know in faith that his light breaks into the darkness of our lives and gives us reason to keep striving to live in love. But, if we are honest people, we must also lament.
Just as the ones who lost their baby boys to Herod’s power-hungry hatred were left with horrendous grief, so today many live with immeasurable sorrow after losing their babies to cancer, to war, to hunger, to disease, to misfired bullets, and to countless other causes. Such sorrow is sometimes especially acute during the holiday season. So, if we are honest, all is not well. While the light of Jesus has come into the darkness, the darkness is not gone. There is still pain and deep, deep grief.
Maybe we should admit that the truth of Christmas is not all sweetness and brightly colored lights and celebrations without sorrow. Emmanuel means “God with us.” Faith is believing that every day we can depend on Jesus in the midst of a violent world. We can proclaim by our lives that cruelty and senseless death will not have the last word.
Even more, faith binds us together over the ages, from these first tiny proto-martyrs to the present day, with grieving families of babies dying from war, hunger, lack of medical help, and a multitude of causes all over the world.
Jesus came to remind us to reject violence and embrace love, to name our pain and that of our brothers and sisters everywhere, and to live in faithfulness to the truth we have named. Even in the darkness of our world, walking in the light of Jesus brings hope. Yes, Emmanuel, God with us, is here. We can celebrate only by being faithful to the Light of Jesus and by walking in that Light, the light of divine love.
The Holy Innocents make up our thirtieth Ornament of Grace.
Observing the Beautiful Ornaments
What are some ways you can show that you truly care about the grief of those who lose children to hunger or violence?
How can you bring the darkness in your life into the light of Jesus?