Somewhere today, some preacher is likely drawing some connection from the massacre of the young boys of Bethlehem and abortion. And Newtown. Probably not the infants who die from particular diseases, or from famine in places like Africa, or even Iraq.
The problem with going too deep into the Matthew 2:16-18 narrative and using it as a springboard into the political issues of the day is pretty basic. Politics on this level is about critique, if not revilement of the opponent. The Christian view is critique of the self. If we are going to look at ourselves, it can be helpful to consider the ways in which our jealousy, like the jealousy of Herod, gets the better of us. Envy and jealousy are my biggest trip points. And while I haven’t committed infanticide to further my life’s goals, I am obligated to look within for sin, rather than check off the list, “Nope, I haven’t assisted in the procurement of an abortion,” and move on to my neighbor.
There are two other Scriptures presented, and I believe they illustrate my point.
First, is the psalm refrain from verse 7 of the 124th:
Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
The psalmist is talking about God’s redemption of the soul–not the body. Verse 5 speaks of the onrush of a flood:
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.
I don’t know about your experience, but in mine, the inner surge of anger is well described here. It’s not always a flame. Sometimes I just want to take my arm and brush aside what stands in my way. A firehose would be more satisfactory than a flamethrower, as the flotsam of my obstacles would be pummeled away from my footsteps. I don’t want to be swept away by the torrent, and carried to a place in which I do not recognize myself.
Saint John gives believers the core message they can take away from Holy Innocents. Watch out for self-deception:
If we say, “We have fellowship with him,”
while we continue to walk in darkness,
we lie and do not act in truth.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,
then we have fellowship with one another,
and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
If we say, “We are without sin,”
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. (1 John 1:6-9)
And even if we have sin, even if we come to that shattering personal revelation, we also have the Lord.
My sense is that today’s feast is about self-deception, and placing a guard over ourselves, our intentions, our attitudes, and our spiritual lives. Christmas is just four days old, and we’ve already observed two red feasts. Stephen, the protomartyr. Plus the infant boys of Bethlehem. If we’re going to congratulate ourselves for personal suffering, and that we’re not the Newtown shooter or an abortion provider, perhaps we should take a closer look at what the Lord is nudging in our direction.