Friday, 28 December 2012

Holy Innocents

Matthew's gospel tells us the story of the Holy Innocents, which we commemorate today. Herod slaughtered the young children of Bethlehem, whilst Mary and Joseph take the child Jesus to safety in Egypt, Joseph having been warned in a dream of Herod's intentions.

For the first readers of this gospel, the passage would be rich in resonances. Just as the People of Israel, sometimes referred to in the Old Testament as 'God's son', had been led to safety in Egypt, after a massacre of the firstborn from which God's chosen one Moses had been spared, so too Jesus, the Son of God and chosen Messiah, is taken to Egypt and kept safe from slaughter. Jesus 'sums up' the history of Israel, God's history of saving his people; he fulfils and completes it. Just to make the point more forcefully, Matthew mentions that all of this happens in response to someone called Joseph having a dream. This should sound familiar.

So we celebrate today the fulfilment of God's purposes in Christ. But we also remember that those purposes are worked out in a world that is often tragically violent. Massacres are not a thing of the past. The violence of the powerful remains with us; today's papers carry more bleak news from Syria. Refugees still look for places of safety, and often find themselves unwelcome when they get there - the scapegoating and hostility directed at asylum seekers in this country by sections of the media is disgusting, and is something that those of us who worship a Lord presented in the gospel as himself a refugee are bound by our faith to resist.

So today we give thanks for God's plan of salvation, we pray for victims of violence and for refugees, and commit ourselves anew to working for their liberation.

Heavenly Father,
whose children suffered at the hands of Herod,
though they had done no wrong:
by the suffering of your Son
and by the innocence of our lives
frustrate all evil designs
and establish your reign of justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

No comments:

Post a Comment