Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs
Fourth Day of Christmas
The Lord be with you
Today is the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, also sometimes called the “Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.” This event is recorded only in the Gospel of Matthew. He tells of King Herod’s vicious plot against the infant Jesus after being “tricked” by the Wise Men. (That is to say, Herod failed to deceive the Wise Men.) Feeling threatened by the one “born King of the Jews,” Herod murdered all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or younger (Matthew 2:16-18). These “innocents,” commemorated just three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth, remind us not only of the terrible brutality of which human beings are capable but, more significantly of the persecution Jesus endured from the beginning of His earthly life. Although Jesus’ life was providentially spared at this time, many years later, another ruler, Pontius Pilate, would sentence the innocent Jesus to death.
The celebration of this day first appeared in North Africa in the third century, making it one of the oldest dates observed. If the Church was interested in a strict chronological reliving of the life of Jesus, this day would be celebrated after Epiphany (which in part remembers the visit of the Wise Men). However the Calendar is more about proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom that has begun in Christ and will be completed in the future.
Appropriate prayers for today include repentance for our national sin of legal abortion; for children; for sensitivity to the suffering of others; for courage to resist oppression and to share the lot of the oppressed; for repentance for brutality and repression, especially that committed in the name of the Holy Child Jesus; for all who are oppressed for the sake of the Gospel (especially by their own government).
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert