Sandy Hook slaughter – the Christmas parallel

December 19, 2012 admin

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

The radio hails it as “most wonderful time of the year”. But the juxtaposition of celebration and the horror of the Newtown, Conn. school shootings, ushers unwanted dimensions of incongruity, shock, and absurdity to this Christmas season.

The purposeless, malicious slaughter of young children finds its reflection in the ghastly evil visited on the populace of Bethlehem in the historical narrative of the first Christmas.

Herod the Great was nearing the end of his life after reigning for 4 decades. His term as King of the Jews – a title bestowed by the Senate of Rome – was characterized by 2 features: unparalleled ability as a builder, and propensity for great cruelty.

His ability to construct is in evidence in the Holy Land today: the mountain fortress at Masada; the port, theatre and hippodrome at Caesarea; the Wailing Wall and Temple Mount platform which were originally part of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem.

But it was his paranoia and malicious brutality that brought him into focus that first Christmas. History records that as he got older, Herod became more unpredictable, more impulsive, and increasingly more violent. For political reasons, he killed his favourite wife (of 5), and many of his sons, prompting Augustus to say it was “better to be Herod’s sow than his son”. Five days before his own death, he was responsible for killing his son Antipater, Herod’s hand-picked designate as heir to throne. And he orchestrated the mass murder of prominent Jewish citizens to coincide with his own death, thereby ensuring national mourning when he died at age 70.

But it is the slaughter of the infant boys – all babies and toddlers, age 2 and under – for which Herod is best known. In a culture of large families, it is hard to conceive of any family in Bethlehem that would have escaped the heartbreak.

This Christmas, we are reminded that ours is a badly distorted world – a planet populated by rebels who deny God’s very existence – not to mention His unconditional right to be honoured, to be worshiped.

Is it any wonder that we witness progressively more anarchy, cultural and societal vandalism, brooding scepticism?

And consequently, as God’s authority is cast off, the resulting evil is uncontrolled, random, shocking, empty, futile, senseless.

It can sound trite, even worn; but we must cling to the belief that God’s plan for His best will prevail, just as it did 20 centuries ago. He is in control; His purposes, His plans will be achieved: then, today, forever.

Takeaway: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.” Luke 2:14