Feast of the Holy Innocents
(I John 1:5-2:2; Matthew 2:13-18)
Just as boys today love to play video games, their counterparts sixty years ago enjoyed model trains. They may have received a basic Lionel electric train one year for Christmas and in subsequent years added onto it. That was not all they did. Obtaining at first a few replicas of shops and public buildings, by the time they were grown they had constructed a village in miniature. We should see the story of the magi in a similar vein. It is not just one of the most popular passages of the four gospels. It is the gospel in miniature.
Today we hear the most gruesome part of the story. King Herod wanted to know the whereabouts of the newborn “king of the Jews” so that he might kill him as a rival to his supremacy. Realizing that the magi did not return to him with news of Jesus, Herod orders the extermination of all baby boys in the region. Jesus, of course, miraculously escapes the massacre. Thirty years hence, a similar plot to have Jesus killed succeeds. But God raises Jesus from the dead to frustrate the proposal of his executioners.
We celebrate Christmas with great but not unmitigated joy. We know that Jesus is born to die a terrible death. It will cause us to ponder not just at the enormity of our sins but also whether we want to follow his way. The joy we feel now is thus mixed with a disquieting thought. The love which Jesus was to born to proclaim carries with it a measure of sorrow. Yet we proceed forward because we know that as God raised Jesus from the dead, he will turn our sorrow to joy.