“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.”
This prophecy from Jeremiah, quoted in Matthew 2:18, doesn’t generally make it into today’s Christmas pageant. We would prefer the story to end with the wise men offering their gifts to baby Jesus on a silent and starry night. But that “peaceful” world was not the little town of Bethlehem that the Savior was born into.
This was a land that fell under the jurisdiction of King Herod, a ruler so paranoid and violent that he was known for drowning a high priest, having his “favorite” wife strangled, and executing two of his innocent sons among other heinous acts. Anyone familiar with Herod’s murderous behavior would not be surprised to read, “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…” (Matthew 2:16).
A massacre of toddlers and babies so horrific that it is quite understandable why this part of the nativity is often left out when we retell the story each Christmas. And while we can choose to edit this out of our presentations, the hard truth is we still live in a very violent world today.
Victims and survivors of violence do not get to ignore the realities of these types of atrocities, so perhaps we shouldn’t either. This doesn’t mean the school play is the appropriate place to relive the tragedy, but it is important to make space so we may offer up the same type of response that we find here in scripture; a time to lament. When we share in lament, we acknowledge the loss and the pain in others and in our own lives.
Christ was born into a violent world and suffered the brunt of it on the cross. But because of the resurrection, we are not left in despair. In a time of Advent, we cannot ignore the violence around us. As we acknowledge the brutality that exists today, we look again – with hope – to Christ who both confronts and conquers it. And we join Him in ushering in His non-violent kingdom.
He gives us hope and we extend that hope to the world around us.