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Holy Little Deaths

Posted by Pastor Christopher Hull on

December 26th was the feast of St. Stephen, and yesterday was the feast of St. John. Both of these feast days seem fair to us. Stephen died proclaiming the Gospel. Stephen was a grown man that wasn't killed against his will, but rather kept preaching in the face of death. St. John, on the other hand, faced persecution all his life, and yet died of old age in Ephesus. We look at both of these saints and say, "Yeah. That sounds fair, one died for the faith, and the other lived a long life, filled with happiness and memories unnumbered." However, today, the feast of the Holy Innocents, isn't a celebration we find fair. It isn't fair that God would allow Herod to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding region who were 2 years old and under. It doesn't seem right that God would let Herod's soldiers tear baby boys out of their mother's arms, away from their nursing breasts, and stabbed them to death. No one looks at this feast day and says, "Yeah, seems fair to me. This all seems right, good, and salutary," No. This massacre, this destruction of life, doesn't make any sense considering we are creatures of a God who is love itself. 

I know that I struggle with this text, and the text in Exodus that recounts Pharaoh throwing all the Israelite boys into the mouths of hungry crocodiles. What doesn't make sense to me is, "Why wouldn't God stop this? Why would God allow this to happen? Why would God let children be slaughtered in such a way?" A good life, a blessed life, is a long life, filled with happiness, family that gets along, good friends, and a good reputation. A good life, a blessed life, is a long life with no regrets, nothing we would've changed. We view a good life, as a long life on this earth. But, the Psalms say, "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away." (Psalm 90). Because of sin, this life is filled with toil and trouble, sorrow and pain. We suffer the temptations of the devil, the persecution and worries of the world, and the desires of the Old Adam. Even look at the text for the Holy Innocents, for it is in jealous anger that Herod sends his soldiers to kill all the little boys. The issue we have is that we think a blessed life is one that is earthly and has to do with treasures made with human hands. We think a good life is a one filled with earthly pleasures and joys that soon fly away. Because we view this life so highly, we see the death of the little Bethlehem boys as an unfair punishment from God, rather than God rescuing the little boys from the toil and pain of this earthly life. 

Luther says, "We resist evil with the ministry of Word and sword, and ye, the evils which cannot be averted we bear to our great advantage but to their detriment and destruction."(LW 6.400).  This is a very different way of believing and living. Think of Jesus' Word on the Mountain when He said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10).  Those who are claimed by Christ are not destined for this life forever, but rather are Holy Ones destined for The Holy Place of Heaven for all eternity. The Holy Innocents died a death that churns your insides, and yet, Rachel's tears will be wiped away as she beholds all her little ones in heaven forever.  Our Old Adam, our sinful condition, will always question why God does things that are burdensome to us in this earthly life. May we be constant in the Word then in order that we may see that the blessings of this life are fleeting, while the blessing of the life to come is eternal. May we see that a long life in this life is not a blessed one, but rather one filled with toil and worry, whereas the long life of eternity is filled with peace that surpasses all understanding. The evil of this world will continue coming, but thanks be to God, that on the cross Jesus consumed all the Father's wrath in order that we will not suffer in the life to come, but will live in Joy eternal. Peace be with you my friends, as you walk through this valley of the shadow of death, with the assurance that you are Christ's, and just as He delivered the little babies into paradise, so shall He deliver you unto the eternal dwellings.

Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam be drowned anew so that you hear only the peaceful voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "I forgive you. I love you. I claim you as My own forever," Amen.

Jesus' Sheepdog,

Pastor Hull

Tags: bethlehem, forgiveness, herod, holy innocents, jesus, luther