Thursday, December 28, 2017

On the Fourth Day of Christmas Our Dear LORD Gave to Us

December 29: The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Matthew 2: 16-23
Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Martin Luther writes:
We resist evil with the ministry of the Word [in Christ’s kingdom of the Church] and sword [in Christ’s kingdom of the world], and yet, the evils which cannot be averted we bear to our great advantage but to their detriment and destruction.
In regard to this line of thought there is also a celebrated dictum of Gregory: “The ungodly do good to us by doing evil.” And Augustine says of the infants slain by Herod that an enemy with his whole strength and all the resources of his kingdom could not have benefited the children more than by killing them.
Accordingly, God humbles those who are His to exalt them: He kills them to make them alive; He confounds them to glorify them; He makes them subject to raise them up.

Still the question persists, “How can a loving God allow such horrible things to happen?” For some, the question is an excuse for atheism. For others, a cry of pain in the midst of trying times, or even a prayer for faltering faith.

For the Baptized, the answer as touched upon by Luther, Gregory, and Augustine above, is to be found in the Word of God and Him made flesh to dwell among us even now in our suffering. As always, God has the bigger, global, intergenerational, eternal picture in mind.

·          Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:19-20
·          As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3
·          Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
     “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

        we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37
·          So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. . . . For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7, 10
·          Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. . . .  God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Hebrews 10:3, 7, 10