Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Holy Innocents

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.” (Mt. 2:16-18)

Death comes to everyone. (Heb. 9:27) It is our wage for the sin we bear (Rom. 6:23) And this is what rubs us the wrong way. Don't we really see ourselves as innocent?

The killing of the Holy Innocents is one those passages that atheists use to justify their lack of belief. After all, how can anyone believe in a god who would stand by letting innocent children die and selfishly protect his own son? And the modernist 'Christian' rationalizes that this is just midrash equating Jesus birth with the Passover. For a historical argument opposing such a rational see Gordon Franz article here. That still leaves the atheist's conundrum, how could God allow such an evil to happen?

My answer to that question is to acknowledge a few basic Christian doctrines with the most basic being the doctrine of original sin. Original sin is the sin we inherit from Adam. It is a part of our nature. (See Article 9 of The Articles of Religion) How many parents are amazed by the ability of their child to lie to them at such a young age. "Where did they learn to do that?" they exclaim. Scripture has the answer! (Psalm 58:3) We are in denial that we are wicked from birth. On more that one occasion, Jesus reminds of us how wicked we are (Lk. 11:13) A healthy dose of this reality keeps us humble and reminds us why we need the cross. And it reminds us that if we don't see our sinfulness and the need for repentance we are all like King Herod.

Death is the norm of mankind.

Whether we die young or old, it is the judgment for our sinfulness. The cure for death is Jesus and His death upon the Cross. (Col. 2:14) But everyone of us must see ourselves guilty deserving death before we can with faith trust Jesus with His forgiveness. To believe otherwise is to believe we can work our way into heaven by our good deeds, a notion even God finds objectionable (Is. 64:6)

Everyday children die. They die from birth defects and abortions, from violence  and disease. Those who are alive to witness it have been shown God's mercy. Not because we are good, but because in God's sovereignty, He is showing us His mercy in order that we may repent. (2 Peter 3:8-10) The death of others reminds us of our death to come.

In the 12 Days of Christmas, we are reminded of death in the midst of Jesus birth. The very Second Day of Christmas we remember the first martyr, St. Stephen, who was stoned for his faith. And the Fourth Day we remember children who by accident of their birth found themselves the object of a mad king's rage. Both witness to Christ's glory. For Stephen he died because of the Wisdom he found in the One True God (Acts 6:10) For the toddlers in Bethlehem, they had no opportunity to be self-reliant on their righteousness, but were totally dependant on God's mercy after death. In Jesus, we die to self and are raised to new life in Him alone! 

O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.