When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
It’s Christmas Eve, and I am
This passage is only three verses long. It starts with Herod being furious because his ego is wounded. So his irrational impulsive decision is to slaughter every boy under the age of 2 in Bethlehem and its vicinity. That all happens in the first verse. We don’t have to read the last 2 verses to know what happened. Of course, there will be weeping and mourning. Of course, no one will be comforted.
If I take time to feel the feelings in the passage, I could easily enter into all of the stages of grief and I didn’t even know any of the children or families. Grief is a no win situation.
As part of the writing process, I tried to feel what “Bethlehem and its vicinity” were feeling and now I am angry, out of control, refusing to be comforted, tears streaming, I am having a very ugly cry even as I type.
Doesn’t this passage remind us of mass shootings? Of black lives lost to gun violence? Of nightclubs, religious services, or concerts disrupted by gunfire? Of war torn countries and refugees longing for safety?
But it does change some things. This reading, horrible as it is, opens us up to feel, to connect, to be human just as God is about to become human. Maybe in my ugly cry, in the death of all these toddlers, in these feelings, we connect to each other and to Jesus. Perhaps unwrapping the gift of being human is the true gift of Advent.