So this is Christmas: Rachel Weeping!

Rachel weeping“A voice was heard in Ramah sobbing and lamenting loudly: it was Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, for they were no more.” Matthew 2:18

Matthew 2:13-23 seems like such an offensive text to be reading so soon after Christmas. And yet, this gospel text, known as the “Slaughter of the Innocents” is indeed the prescribed lesson for the first Sunday of Christmas.  Amid our celebrations, and in the midst of the gospel writer’s account of the birth of Christ, this horrendous story of the slaughter of innocents begs the question:  WHY? It’s Christmas for heaven’s sake! My preaching professor, used to remind us of the first question that we should ask when we are preparing a sermon on a particular text. After reading the text over several times,we were encouraged us to ask the obvious question. “So What?”

So What? Well for this child of the sixties, only one Christmas song comes to mind when I read of the slaughter of the innocents, it’s the one Christmas song that asks the question:    So What? We’ve just celebrated Christmas? So what does this mean? Please listen. “So this is Christmas?”


John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980. Shot by a deranged fan. And so is it any wonder, the melancholy why in which he sang this song, haunts our Christmases? So, what possible difference can Christmas make? We haven’t even had a chance to finish our celebrations and the news is far from good. Thousands continue to die in Sudan, Palestine is a mess. The people of the Philippians continue to suffer in the aftermath of disaster. Militants in Afghanistan are growing stronger despite the presence of foreign forces, violence and death are the order of the day in Syria where hundreds and thousands have been slaughtered.   Millions have died in Darfur and still the world cannot find a solution so today thousands more will se-come to starvation and genocide. The war on Terror rages on as one side scores points on the other at the cost of human flesh and the word “drone” has taken on a horrific meaning.  AID’s continues to ravage Africa and still we withhold the money and the medicines that could save millions. Hunger continues to claim the lives of the poor despite the fact that we have more than enough food to feed the world. Poverty continues to enslave millions the world over.

And so this is Christmas, and what have we done?

For we are the ones to whom a child was born.

We are the ones to whom a saviour was given.

A saviour who is Christ the Lord.

A saviour sent to provide hope to the world.

And we are the ones in whom Christ lives.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, for God has done great things for us!

Christ lives and breathes in us.

So, we are the ones God has sent to save the world.

So, this is Christmas and what have you done?

Clearly we have work to do!

The work of Christmas has barely begun.

If the slaughter of innocents is to end, we had better get busy.

Rachel is weeping for her children.

And God knows why she weeps.

Rachel weeps because her children are no more.

And Rachel, their mother, refuses to be comforted.

Rachel’s children—our children, yours and mine—born for love and mercy, die from neglect and ugliness and Rachel weeps bitterly. There’s a little book of prayers called: “Children’s Letters to God”. The prayers in that book have the power to make you smile and cry all at once. The very first letter to God in that book reads: “Dear God, in Sunday School they told us what you do. Who does it, God, when you are on vacation?” We may smile, but sometimes it feels as if for all intents and purposes, God is on vacation. For surely God would not stand idly by and allow so many innocents to perish?

Once we broaden our images of God; the source of our being, the One who dwells in us, we can begin to see that the place where we have traditionally located the Divine One changes from up there to in and around here and we can begin to seek God not out there but within and around us. If God is on vacation, it is because we are on vacation. For the Divine one works in, with and through us to sooth the pain caused by violence and greed.

So, let me assure you sisters and brothers, our God is not on vacation. Despite appearances to the contrary, our God is not absent, but God is surely weeping. For in Christ God showed us the way. The Christmas story insists that our God is in-fleshed and dwells among us.  This changes everything. It’s not enough to pray with words expecting some far off deity to change the world. The changing of this world will happen when we begin to live into our full humanity and the sacred nature of our very being shines forth with LOVE. In, with and through us is how the LOVE we call God changes the world.. For we are God’s people on earth; Christ’s body on earth and it is through Christ’s body that God will save the innocents. There’s no time for us to waste feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems. It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get busy.

There’s a song that helps me to remember the hope born in Bethlehem. These Hands

 

And so this is Christmas… Rachel weeps.  We’ve been on vacation long enough. Our God has taken on flesh and dwells among us!  It’s time for the work of Christmas to begin again. We are God’s hands!

 

9 thoughts on “So this is Christmas: Rachel Weeping!

  1. why not admit that there NEVER was a slaughter of the innocents. That Matthew created stories to “anchor ” his Jesus story in the Hebraic tradition ?
    His slaughter of the innocents parallels the death of all the first born in Egypt before the Exodus.

    And EH ! We are winning the war on war says Joshua Goldstein Thanks to the U.N, wars will be very soon a subject taught in Universities alongside with the dinosaurs. Something that existed a long, long,, time ago So let’s not worry about today’s casualties. They are at the tail end of an historical paradigm, Soon the lions will sleep with the lambs. No kidding. Isaiah saw it coming a while ago.

    God has been on vacation for the past 3000 years in my opinion.

    I enjoyed Christmas eve service at your church. So did my friend Jean ( an interesting mix of Babtist /Roman Catholic upbringing with a touch of Quakerism for the past 10, almost, 11 years.)

    Keep up the good work.

    Have a very happy New Year 2014

    Dan

    • Actually, Dan, I feel Dawn has the message exactly correct … in this text, our focus moves (or rather, should move) from Rachel’s weeping… to her healing. And it’s the healing that deeply matters. Healing is a process that comes from within … as well as from the help of others. But it’s that part within that is is key … the place where God dwells within (if we are willing to go there). It’s like following the searchlight from the dark treacherous oceans just beyond the shoreline, to the safety and comfort of “being home”, docked in the harbour … away from the danger and darkness. From darkness to light … that’s the message of Christmas.
      As for war and poverty … as human beings we still have a long way to go. Maybe it’s simply a part of our evolution as human beings … and maybe in another 1,000 or 10,000 years, we’ll finally get there.

      May you experience a blessed and meaningful Christmas full of love, charity, and generosity. And may the light of God bring each one of us out of our own darkness. Shalom,

    • Andrew, I’m watching the videos from a desktop PC running Windows XP … I have no problem seeing the video. Please check your iphone settings.

  2. Hey Dan, I have no problem admitting that the slaughter of the innocents never happened the way it is told in the New Testament. However, following Marcus Borg, I want to ask why it is the that writers wrote the story the way they wrote it, because even though it never actually happened it is always happening; innocents are always being slaughtered. It is the power of story to draw this to our attention and hopefully once our attention is fixed on the horror, we can summon up the power of the Divine within us to do something to usher in peace through justice. Therein lies the hope that we might have a hand in shaping our evolution as a species.
    Glad you were able to be with us on Christmas Eve. Wishing you a blessed New Year.
    Shalom

    • Of course it is always happening that the innocents are always slaughtered.
      POWER rules.
      Those without power SUFFER.
      it is the history of mankind since it has been recorded.
      Once in a while, the powerless find the courage to revolt
      The French Revolution of 1789 sent a chill down the spine of the “powerful ” as they were lined up by the populace ( King, Queen, Dukes and every Titled “Aristocrates ” ) to experience first hand the Guillotines in Paris ( It is believed that 1000 lost their head everyday under the so called Reign of Terror. A Terror only felt by the leeches of the Nation.
      Karl Marx ‘s Communist Manifesto was inspired by the French Revolution and in fact what happened to the Russian Monarchy can be compared to what happened to the French Monarchy. For the very same reasons.
      But POWER still rules
      In a more subdued form in the industrial nations, in the same brutal forms in the under-developed ones. And WE are all to blame. Every time we shop for bargain at Wal-Mart, Dollar- Store or buy gas for our cars; money that ends in the pockets of unelected tribal chiefs of dictatorial Middle East nations who rules over “Their ” people like their cattle of race horses, we encourage a form of institutionalise slavery in countries so far away that in our consciousness they don`t exist. It is O.K for kids in Begladesh to work 12 hours a day. because I am not going to spend xxx $ in a store when I can get it for less in a slave shop retailer.
      WE are killing the innocents
      I am re-reading Dietrich Bonoeffer `s The Cost of Discipleship right now. Cheap grace is preached in every Church today. The Costly Grace would scare everyone away. We live in a secular Christianity.
      Is the Gospel message even applicable, possible ,since we live in the world ???
      Shalom to you too.
      Dan

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