Holy Innocents

Jeremiah 31:15–20, Matthew 2:13–23, Hebrews 2:11–18 (read online ⧉)

In the Evangelical Church, and even in the so-called mainstream American Denominations, the day of Holy Innocents is often skipped over. It’s uncomfortable. It’s weird. To our sensibilities, it just makes no sense. Like so many of the stories in the Scriptures, we have a hard time wrapping our heads around it.

When spoken in Jeremiah, it is the loss of the people of Israel to exile and the loss of the Promised Land. In times of war and exile, children were often the first victims, just as it in many cases today. Lamenting wasn’t just sorrow. It was God-led grief, a ripping of the fabric of those that God had called. It was tinged with horror at what was lost, and how far away God seemed to be.

As with many other Old Testament passages, this was called up by Jesus’ followers as a foreshadowing of Herod’s great crime…sacrificing the future (children) for the sake of his power and pride. While Herod’s Jewish ancestors were condemned for killing their children to appease demonic gods, Herod went so far as to kill God’s children to prevent anyone, including God’s Messiah, from taking “his” power.
As an innocent baby, God became one of us. God dared, and the world dared bigger.

With every political cycle, there is a cynical pulling of our heartstrings for the future (the children). Whether the issue is abortion, adoption, food, education, healthcare, politicians use our hearts to pull our votes. This is not to deny the importance of the issues. In fact, it is quite the opposite. By making political hay using children, the politicians belittle our hearts, our future, and our children.

The sad part is that our culture has place children in this odd place. While we may not be Herod, children and the satisfaction of political, cultural, and personal power remains an issue. If one analyzes the political, cultural, and religious language often used, one can see god (not God) language used with and for children (through no fault or initiative of their own). Children are therefore set up to fail as they are not gods. Children, to this day, are used for power and pride. They are still Holy Innocents.

1) We often compare our childhood to the “current” childhood. How does that cause us to miss bad (i.e., “god”) language spoken of us when we were children? Why is it both bad and good to compare language used about children?

2) Why do you think children end up in discussions of power?

3) Holy Innocents is a recognition that children often have no say, yet bear the consequences. How should that affect Christian conversation about the Next Generation?