Editor’s note: This was supposed to be published back in December, but due to a variety of reasons, publishing was put off and off until now.
As we prepare for the second coming of Christ this Advent season, one of the events we must consider connected to Jesus’ first coming is the slaying of innocent children. Matthew 2:16-18 records what is called the “Massacre of the Innocents,” the genocide of all children age two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding region by King Herod. Matthew records that this event fulfilled a prophesy made by 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” (Matthew 2:18, ESV).
Herod wanted to prevent Jesus from becoming King as had been prophesied. Two thousand years later, a small American community is also weeping because of the death of children during this Advent season. December 14, 2012 was a tragic day for the community of Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and eight adults were killed (including the shooter and his mother). Their deaths were evil.
In the midst of this tragedy, there are plenty of pundits stepping up to the microphone to use this as an opportunity for advancing various agendas and political platforms. Whether it’s liberal politicians endorsing gun control legislation or the Christian Right using this as an opportunity to scold the nation for a breakdown in morality and not allowing prayer in schools, Rachel is still weeping for her children. She still refuses to be comforted. But politicians don’t have answers or hope. Neither do Christian moralists.
But a little perspective is in order. Every day even more children are killed in the name of “a woman’s right to choose.” This murder will even be subsidized by American tax dollars. Not to mention the violence committed daily in many urban neighborhoods. We live in a culture of death.
In 1 Corinthians 15:26, St. Paul reminds us that “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” All death is evil. It is our enemy. God did not create suffering. All death flies in the face of our Creator, who made us for life. The only answer to violence is love. No legislation will fix the problem. No amount of moralizing will address the root issue. The problem is sin. We can only prevent violence by freeing our hearts from it. Only love can free our hearts.
Even during this horrific tragedy, heroic acts of love were performed. The teachers who died trying to protect their students showed real love. John 15:13 tells us, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The ultimate act of love for all mankind was that of Jesus’ death for us.
But even His death was evil. In fact, it was the most evil death of them all. Death is a consequence of sin, but Jesus didn’t sin! He is the only one who didn’t deserve to die! Yet He chose to….
Jesus hated death. We know this because he ruined every funeral he ever attended. Death is not right. It’s not the way things are supposed to be. But Jesus died in order to defeat death. He trampled down death by death. And He rose from the dead. He is alive and death is dead. That is our comfort. It is the only comfort we have.
This Advent season we remember that when Christ comes again He will utterly destroy the last enemy: death. The grave cannot hold us. We will rise again in our bodies and live forever. Christ is risen!
Let us join in proclaiming the Paschal Troparion said every Pascha (Easter) in the Eastern Orthodox Church:
“Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs, Bestowing life!”