Herod Destroys Himself and Others

Sermon Sunday after Nativity

CHRIST IS BORN!!

   Today we celebrate the leave-taking of Nativity. It is also the Sunday after Nativity, so we celebrate the kinsmen of the Lord: Joseph the betrothed, David the King, James the brother of the Lord. 

   James was the first bishop of Jerusalem. When the council of Jerusalem is called, it is James who presides over it. It is likely that James was the son of Joseph from an earlier marriage. The words of that time were not so concerned with describing the precise relationship. Cousins, siblings, half siblings were covered under the same word. The icon of the escape to Egypt often will depict James prodding the donkey on while Joseph attends to Mary. 

   Wisemen from Babylon have just left; and Joseph takes Mary and Jesus into Egypt. This is to indicate the what Christ will accomplish is for all mankind. Christ and the Holy Family leave a dangerous place to trek the desert to go into another country for safety. Just as Abraham did before Him, He leaves the city of His birth. Just as Israel (Jacob) did before Him, He goes to Egypt for safety. He becomes a fugitive. 

   And the reason for their escape into Egypt was that Herod wanted to kill Jesus. 

Herod was not a very stable person; some might call him mad. When he was troubled (which was often) Herod’s court had to find ways of dealing with him. He sees a threat to his position, and he reacts in fear. In his fear he has many young children killed, including two of his own sons. In his fear, he destroys all that he should have loved, including himself. 

   And his actions wound others — . . . . deeply. . . . with the deepest of wounds. . . . mothers watched their little sons being murdered before their eyes. Ramah was the seat of the judge Deborah; Ramah was the home of Samuel the priest, the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. Ramah was the seat of the tribe of Benjamin, whose mother was Rachel. There was a memorial to Rachel near Bethlehem. The Gospel quotes the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping and wailing; Rachel would not cease weeping for her children —  because they are no more.”

   The proto martyrs of proto martyrs. . . . all because of the ego, and fear of a madman who was their ruler. . . . .all because of his fear and obsession. 

   How can we apply this to ourselves? Herod is such an extreme case that it is easy to think that this cannot possibly apply to us. But let us not think that this is just about someone else. 

   What are some of the things we obsess about? that we have our ego bound up in, that we have let our fears make decisions for us — and don’t see how we are destroying what we love?

   The Word of God took on our flesh from the Theotokos — took on our wounds, but without wounding Himself as we often do, to the astonishment of the demons who would never think of what we freely do to ourselves. He took on our flesh so that He could heal our wounds and bring us to salvation. 

 

   The Eternal God became a little child — humbled Himself for our sake, that He might live this human life that we usually mess up, so that He could reclaim it for Himself and offer it to His Father. 

   By His death He conquered our enemy — death, . . . and made a path for us to His Kingdom. 

   By taking on our humanity, He, the Eternal invisible God the Word became visible. . . a little child. 

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Meditation on the Massacre at Sandy Hook

On Dec 14 2012 20 children and 6 teachers were murdered. My choir, the Illumni Men’s Choral, had a concert that very evening, a Christmas Concert. How do we sing of Christmas in the midst of such tragedy. This is my…

Meditation on the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary

REJOICE !!!. The Hymn says. REJOICE !!!

And yet it is hard to rejoice. Innocent Children die at the hand of a person that we are most comfortable calling “Mad”, because we cannot understand “why?”.

REJOICE !!!! the Hymn Says. But how can the parents, who must bury their child, the joy of their hearts, the expectation of their dreams, who are going though the worst thing a parent can go though, rejoice?

REJOICE !!!! the Hymn almost demands. But how can our communities rejoice that will never know the contribution of the little ones who now lie dead?

This is much more like the Carol that is proper to the days of Christmas (Dec 28th or 29th, depending on which calendar you keep), the Coventry Carol. “Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” Indeed we must celebrate these young lives that have been cut off; and I can think of no better time than the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

REJOICE !!! the Hymn remonstrates.

How can we rejoice when there is so much pain? The poet muses about that in one of our Christmas Carols: “And in despair I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of Peace on Earth good will to men.

REJOICE!!! the Hymn almost mocks

There is no sense to the violence that has visited us. It is an insult to truth to assign it a meaning. How can we rejoice?

And yet when we look at that hymn, it speaks of exile, of mourning, of a captivity that needs God Himself to come and undo. As we mourn the fallen innocents, we also mourn our own fallen innocence. It touches the tender part of us that does its best to trust in a world that cannot be trusted. It is that part of us, the part that is still child like, that feels the wound most deeply. We feel the violence done to these dear ones deeply in ourselves. On some level we share in that wound, a wound that is not easily healed

The Hymn acknowledges all that, and still confronts us: REJOICE !!!!

Sometimes “REJOICE” is an act of defiance.