December 29, 2019

First Sunday after Christmas 2019

Passage: Isaiah 63:7-9; Matthew 2:13-23

          Just and righteous God, we do not understand why children suffer and die, why autocratic rulers offer only death and evil. We look for answers but only and ever find your love. May that be enough. Amen.

 

“…the steadfast love of the Lord…”   So writes this third section of the book of Isaiah.

After the exile is over, after the people have returned home, after so many have died along this 70 year journey. This section of Isaiah is the beginning of a lament but a lament focused on the seeming lack of God’s presence.

I think the mothers and fathers of Bethlehem felt the same only much differently. Their babes are dead and they have only grief. Home is not home any longer it is only a place of murder and outrage. The magi have delivered their message to Mary and Joseph: get out of town! So they travel to Egypt ancient displaced persons seeking refuge. In the midst of their absence comes this scene of utter destruction. And Rachel, the second wife of the patriarch Jacob, mother of Joseph and Benjamin

is a matriarch for Israel that mourns: the death of so many led to exile, the death of innocent babes, the death of innocence itself. The historical record of Herod the Great

is not a good nor proud one to recall. Paranoid beyond normalcy he orders the murder of his wife Miriamne, the death of three of his sons and the death of leading men of Israel upon his own death. He is remembered as a monster not as a ruler. And Rachel weeps…

These are tough Scriptures for us on this first Sunday after Christmas. Where is the ‘Joy to the World’? Where is Mary keeping all these things in her heart? Where is God??? If we can view these Scripture as confessional, confessing both that we don’t understand but also that we are often complicit we may be able to find God in them.

It’s very difficult to recall any kindness or mercy when in the throes of distress but God’s love never fails. Even when in distress, even when mourning the death of an innocent

even when displaced from home. There are moments all we can do is say that we trust God. Nothing more, nothing less. We must as humans and not deities come to terms with God as God is and always has been. A jealous God for love of God’s people

which will include Jesus and Mary and Joseph. There are deep ethical problems for us

in the slaughter of these innocents for we question what God only warns one family and not all the others? And we must confess we do not understand but we can do something about that in our time. We must acknowledge there are Heroes abounding

in this world even now who have no guilt over ordering death. And death squads still exist in the death of Jesus, in the death of Syrians, in the death of Iranians, in the death of Guatemalans. And we must confess our own lack of attention to these deaths that still go on. History is filled with scapegoats sacrificed to appease outraged justice.

But we do not have to sit silently by doing nothing. There are organizations who support displaced persons especially those in our own country who are looking for safety not jail. Episcopal Relief and Development is at the border of the U.S. and Mexico working with other relief organizations to assist families looking for freedom.

We can support them. There are organizations right here in Montgomery County working with refugees to help with settlement, green cards, work. We can support them.

And we must confess we are content to sit quietly by as death continues for the innocent. For this too is the Christmas season a story with an abrupt shift that reminds us life and death are two sides of the same coin. There often is no going home

there often is innocence slaughtered. But it need not remain there for all time.

We can welcome the stranger into our own midst and we can confess our own comfort

and our own lack of seeing. God help us to help them. Amen.

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