There is an unfortunate tendency to see Christmas Day as the end of the celebration of Christ's birth, rather than the beginning of a twelve-day season of Christmas, leading to the Day of Epiphany. So we are largely ignorant, or at least vague about the other aspects of the two infancy narratives, one in Luke and the other in Matthew. One of those stories is usually called the Massacre of the Innocents. According to Matthew the Magi have a meeting with Herod, who encourages them to return with news of the birth of the Messiah. the Christ, if this has in fact occurred. The Magi ignore this entreaty, and the Holy Family makes for Egypt. Herod chooses to kill all the infants in Bethlehem, just to be safe.
This is a curious and grisly story to be sure. We do know that Herod was a paranoid and vicious ruler who had members of his immediate family assassinated when he grew suspicious of their aspirations. But there is no other corroborating account of this pogrom against Jewish children. Some scholars dismiss it altogether.
I feel that it is an important reminder that the Christmas incarnation is more than God's choice to be with us as a vulnerable baby, born in a stable. The consequences of birth can be extraordinarily dangerous. We see and hear this every day, with news that children are the victims of unspeakable violence in Syria, the undemocratic Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan. In some instances despotic leaders are ordering the massacre of innocent children with impunity. Children are surely suffering in the Philippines, and Haiti, even as our eyes turn away to other crises. Jesus and his parents became refugees as they escaped the violence. I found it heart-breaking to see Syrian children playing in the snow of the freak weather event that descended on their tent cities.
Our encouragement, always, is to connect scripture with the realities of our time rather than turn the stories into sweet "snow globe" tales without much relevance for our day. They can move us to justice and compassion in our choices as comfortable Canadians.
Any observations folks?