Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Our Gospel reading for the Holy Innocents is from Matthew 2:13-18. Here, after the wise men have departed, Joseph is warned by an angel in a dream. He takes his little family at night and departs to Egypt.
Matthew speaks of two prophecies which are fulfilled in these events. One is a very brief statement, "Out of Egypt I called my son" (Hosea 11:1). Jesus had to participate in several very specific events so as to fulfill all the prophecies. He was to be born in Bethlehem. He was to be known as someone from Nazareth. He was to be called out of Egypt. All of this took place.
The other prophecy, from Jeremiah 31, is a much sadder one. Herod, having learned from the wise men that they had seen the signs in the sky about the birth of a king about two years before, treated all male children two years old and younger from the area of Bethlehem as his enemies. In a very real way, they were the first people to die on account of Jesus. It brings greater sorrow than it might, since they didn't know what Jesus was all about. They had no experience of him. Unlike many other martyrs, they had not personally taken any sort of stand for Jesus. Yet Herod had them killed.
Why didn't this show up in secular histories? Herod was violent enough and the population of the area was small enough that this slaughter was not among Herod's larger scale crimes. However, thanks to the Gospels, we know about the event and we can commemorate it.
It is always a very sad thing when someone dies without reason. Christians are frequently charged to defend life. All humans, as we see in Genesis 1-2, bear the image of God. We have an inherent dignity. This is why Christians defend the unborn, the born, the young, the adult, the elderly, and even those who are on their deathbed. For that matter, this is why Christians treat the body of a dead person with respect. God has made every living human with dignity. It is part of our calling before God to defend that dignity.
Even as Joseph took his little family to Egypt for a place of safety, we guard our families. We know that God is the Lord over all, and that he has made the family as a good thing, to be nurtured and cherished. This is most certainly true.
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