The Holy Innocents, Martyrs
28 December 2018
Holy Innocents is the day when the church commemorates the slaughter of the Bethlehem children by raging King Herod (Mt 2:13-18). At one time, people doubted that anyone could be so cold and callous as to slaughter wantonly all the Bethlehem children two years old and younger. But history teaches otherwise.
Human wickedness has a boundless capacity for slaughter. Herod himself slaughtered not only other people's children, but also his own. Herod was an equal opportunity killer. So well known was he for his bloody exploits that Caesar Augustus once quipped that he would rather be "one of Herod's pigs than one of Herod's sons," since, to keep his Jewish subjects happy, Herod would not eat pork.
By its record of bloody slaughter, the past century of human history puts Herod's century to shame; whether on the killing fields of Pol Pot, the death camps of Hitler, Stalin's intentional starvation of Russian peasants, or our own holocaust of abortion. Herod was a mere piker in comparison to these efficient, modern slaughterers. Parodying a song of the Old Testament we can sing: "Herod killed his hundreds while we have slain our millions upon millions."
God in Christ comes into our blood-soaked world for the purpose of redeeming it. Given our escalating success at slaughtering one another, what here is worth redeeming? Worth? Nothing. God's love for the world is not a question of its worth, but of his redeeming grace. God's love for the world is centered in the worth of Christ. The worth of Christ changes everything and gives meaning even to what appears to be senseless slaughter. It begins with the slaughter of His own cross. The blood shed from it is the only blood that cleanses, and covering over the whole world's blood, it redeems. From such blood cleansed by his life-giving blood arise the holy saints and martyrs clothed in blood-washed white robes.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"To this day it happens that when tyrants rage against the gospel, they do no more than blow into the ashes. Then the fire becomes greater, and the ashes fly into their eyes. This is the success which their tyranny is to meet. When they shed innocent blood, this blood of the Christians is to act as a fertilizer on the field, making it rich and productive. For through persecution Christendom grows; conversely Christians become lazy and lax when conditions are peaceful and quiet."

Martin Luther, 
What Luther Says
Matthew 2:13-18

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."
Almighty God, whose praise was proclaimed on this day by the wicked death of innocent children, giving us thereby a picture of the death of your beloved Son, mortify and destroy in us all that is in conflict with You that we who have been called in faith to be Your children may in life and death bear witness to Your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For President Matthew C. Harrison of the LCMS, that God the Lord would lead him to preach the Life that gives life
For all those who are separated from their families and friends in this Christmas season, especially all those in military service, that they might receive the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace
For all innocent sufferers facing the plague of persecution, that they may be kept in their most holy faith
For all the infants who are slaughtered on the altar of our convenience, that God our loving Father would bring abortion to an end
Art: GHIRLANDAIO, Domenico Slaughter of the Innocents (1486-90)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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