An Uncomfortable Feast

Today is for most people in Britain the Boxing Day public holiday, deferred from the day after Christmas by the intervening weekend, but on the churches calendar it is the so called “feast of the Holy Innocents.”
The massacre of the infant boys of Bethlehem on the orders of Herod the Great may seem an inappropriate cause for feasting… but it reflects the ancient teaching that, in effect, those children were, unwittingly, the first Christian martyrs… But it is a part of the story of Christmas that is quickly glossed over today. There are few carols that refer to it, and it rarely gets a dramatic re-enactment in the nativity play… if it did then we would have to put an over 18 certificate on it (actually there is a very funny scene depicting this episode in the recent movie "Nativity" that I wrote about last week... but I hope I never see the same in our local Primary School).
But meanwhile, as we continue to feast on the leftovers from Friday, the massacre of the innocents goes on… child soldiers in countless conflicts across the globe… child slaves in sweat-shops working to produce cut-price toys and clothes… or exposed to unimaginable horrors as sex-workers… and children in sub-saharan Africa dying every couple of seconds from disease and hunger.
Compared with the death rate today, Herod was an amateur… And if we are to honour the memory of those first unwitting martyrs, then we need to do all we can to protect the innocents of our day… For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

This was originally written as a Just a Moment talk for Downtown Radio this morning. The picture is Reubens "Massacre of the Innocents" from the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.


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