The beauty of the Christmas story 2000 years ago was marred by an act of violence that makes me shudder every time I read it. The Gospel of Matthew tells us of a jealous King Herod who when he realized that his duplicity with the wise men had failed, determined to secure by bloodshed that which he could not by cunning. History records the incident as the “slaughter of the innocents”. To secure his throne against this new “King of the Jews”, whom the wise men sought, Herod ordered every male child in Bethlehem two years old and younger to be killed (read the account in the New Testament of the Christian scriptures, Matthew chapter 2). There are numerous artistic renderings of this incident, perhaps the most famous is a painting by 17th century artist, Peter Paul Reubens, which hangs in a Toronto, Canada art gallery. While one would expect that a painting from that era would not be as graphic as a modern news reel, somehow Reubens’ painting is very disturbing.
The Old Testament prophecy believed to be fulfilled by this evil act makes reference to the crying of an inconsolable woman, Rachel, who represents every mother in Israel and in other places and ages who have been robbed of the joy of raising her children. But the Christmas story is about the child of Bethlehem who grew up to become the Savior of the world, who by his life, death and resurrection conquered death. Through him there is a promise that Rachel will one day be comforted. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
Be a blessing.
Mark A. Stoddart, M.Div.
Administrative Director for Spiritual Wellness
Shawnee Mission Medical Center