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The Final Scene…

The Parade of Kings…

On Saturday, the Bell family played out what most of us see as the final scene of the Christmas story, complete with an actual parade of Kings… Wisemen… Persian Magi… across the room to the holy family from their nativity set. In early December the creche scenes were carefully unpacked from their boxes. The holy families were set on shelves and tabletops- seven in total- with their matching kings at a distance because “they had not arrived yet.” Then on Epiphany the parade begins, often with a hint of chaos that mirrors the stirring of Jerusalem when the Magi arrived to speak to Herod. This year, we had one set of desert wanderers who could not find their holy family. Our youngest granddaughter hummed as she paraded her kings from room to room, finally finding their holy family on the shelf above the oven. Once the kings arrive, the scenes are complete.

I have always enjoyed visiting people during the holidays to see how they decorate for Christmas. Bea Barr’s house filled with 35 Christmas trees and her assorted Christmas villages is a delight to explore. I especially enjoy seeing how people set their creche scenes, in particular what people add to their creche scenes… a giraffe from the Fisher Price Zoo set, or a pig from the Farm set- an interesting choice since kosher Jews would not have a pig in their stable. In one home I found Chewbacca protecting baby Jesus. (You would have to be a Star Wars fan to know that character.) In another home, the Easter Bunny made her way into the stable. A pastor friend always sets his creche with a University of Michigan snowman- he is very loyal to his alma mater. These are all fun additions, but I have often wondered if my creche scenes need a more serious addition to reflect the final act of the Christmas story. Yet, each year I hesitate to frame my sweet Christmas scenes with armed soldiers.

The Murder of the Innocents, found in Matthew 2:16-18, is the Christmas story oft forgotten. On Sunday at Lenape Valley, we concluded the reading of the Christmas story at verse 12 with the Magi “going home by another route.” In our home, we will happily play out verse 12 this week as we pack our wisemen away in their boxes for another year. No fuss, no mess, no bother. That final story from v.16-18, of Herod’s wrath falling on innocent baby boys, often stays silent in the closed pages of my Bible, because the memory of those little ones and the cries of their mothers would taint my perfect scene of that first Christmas. Yet, especially this year, I dare not forget those little ones. The cries of children caught in the crossfire of an angry world echo across the ages and into our modern reality. We see their faces, we hear their stories, we see their plight- from our southern border to Ukraine to the Holy Land- and then we turn the channel to more pleasant entertainment like the closed pages of my Bible.

Little ones caught in the crossfire… my heart is hurting… is yours? How many times have children paid the price for the greed and anger and hate of adults? Where are the adults willing to protect God’s precious children?

Someone cautioned me the other day that writing about this oft forgotten Christmas story… and even hinting that this story of the murder of the innocents might be mirrored in our modern day… is stepping over a political line that is forbidden these days. But then who will speak for the babies? Who will protect them? Are we willing to see their faces and hear the cry of their mothers and fathers? Jeremiah writes and Matthew echoes:

A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more. (Jeremiah 31:5, Matthew 2:18)

Jeremiah is often called 'the weeping prophet' because the devastation of God's chosen people was so painful to him. Jeremiah and his people wept as victims of hate, but what do we do if our hand has touched the sword? In the complexity of the world today, am I victim… or perpetrator… or mere spectator of the horror? And if spectator, have I no place in God’s plan for the redemption of this world? If I follow the One who gave His life for those little ones, can I be just a passive observer?

Yesterday, I read Jeremiah chapter 31 in its entirety. That chapter flows from the cries of the innocents to the hope of the Savior. Jeremiah writes, “The time is coming,” declares the Lord…” As Christians who live in the year of our Lord, we know ‘the time’ has already come. The Redeemer has broken into our reality. He has taken on human flesh. He has “moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14) And look at the neighborhood he moved into… not the nice, quiet neighborhood with perfectly manicured lawns… but the one with bombed out buildings and crying mothers. He moved into the hard, hurting, harried, haggard, hazardous, hostile, heartbreaking, hungry, hopeless neighborhood, where His precious little ones are hunted by a hateful world. Into a world that slaughters children, Jesus brings lighta light the darkness cannot overcome, and He calls us to shine His light. Are we on our knees in prayer? Do we speak with His grace and forgiveness? Will we vote for those who care for ‘the least of these’? Are we God’s instruments of peace in our homes and neighborhoods? When we hear the cries of God’s little ones, will we turn toward them and let their hurt move us off the sidelines? We are called to follow Jesus “into the neighborhood.” I’m not always sure how to answer that call… but those little ones need me to try… Will you join me?

With you following the Savior into a broken world,
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