4th Day of Christmas: Childermas

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” — Matthew 2:16-18shoes

Today is Childermas. You might not have heard of it. My spellcheck hasn’t. The story goes like this: There were rumors that a king had been born that was a threat to those in power. So, Herod sent and slew all the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old or under. He had intended to include the Son of God among the murdered babies. In Roman Catholic mass today, on this 4th day of Christmas, no Gloria in Excelsis or Alleluias are spoken.

Like an anniversary of The Holocaust, 9/11, or an elementary school slaughtering, today is a somber day of remembrance of a genocide. A day we remember the wailings of mothers and fathers whose toddlers were murdered by Herod, out of fear of a baby named Jesus. These same mothers and fathers remembered the wailings of mothers and fathers before them whose toddlers were murdered by Pharaoh, out of fear of a baby named Moses.

Mass killings of innocent children are nothing new, and yet it doesn’t hurt any less. In the week following Sandy Hook we paused to remember, but collectively we seem to stop mourning after a week, for fear of becoming numb.

We must find ways to remember.

Every hour there is another Sandy Hook in the world. Every hour 30 innocent children die of AIDS—deaths preventable by medication. Our news cycle doesn’t spend much time covering this epidemic, out of fear of a drop in ratings.

We must find ways to remember.

Since 2001, it is estimated by different studies that more than 60,000 innocent children have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countless other countries can tally up even higher numbers of children that were killed with weapons bought with our tax dollars or who have simply disappeared under the watch of regimes the United States put in power.

We must find ways to remember.

It is estimated that 40% of lesbian, gay, bi, transgender and queer youth have attempted suicide, making suicide one of the main causes of death among LGBTQ 15 to 24 year olds. The complacency of our government, our churches, and our own fear about sexuality is killing our children.

We must find ways to remember.

There is a mass for that—Merry Childrermas.

One: Enraged, Herod put to death many male children

Many: In Bethlehem of Judea, the city of David.

One: Let us pray. O God, whose praise the martyred Innocents this day proclaimed not by speaking but by dying, put to death all vices within us, that Thy faith which our tongues profess, our lives also by their actions may declare.

Many: Amen.

A reflection by Andy Oliver.

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Andy is the Communicatons and Technology Coordinator serving Reconciling Ministries Network. Andy tweets at @HeyAndyOliver and blogs at http://about.me/andyoliver

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20th Day of Advent: Pasted-on Smiles and Half-Hearted Merry Christmases – A Reflection on Zephaniah 3:14-20

Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
I will remove from you
all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals,
which is a burden and reproach for you.
At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they have suffered shame.
At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,”
says the LORD.
— Zephaniah 3:14-20

For some, Christmas is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The time spent with family and friends singing carols, giving gifts, baking cookies, trimming trees, and celebrating the birth of a tiny baby thousands of years ago. For others the pressure of the season, the expectation of joy is a burden too heavy to bear. Too heavy to muster up that illusion of happiness. For some, the year prior had produced too much brokenness, so feigning happiness during Christmas becomes an exercise of pasted-on smiles and half-hearted Merry Christmases.

Wednesday saw a report of a suicide/homicide in New Jersey, where a mother set her home on fire and closed herself and her three year old son in her bedroom while the house burned around them. There are stories like this all around the country.

Something in people snaps during this season and the pressure to be happy and filled with Christmas cheer becomes too much. And unfortunately we are too busy or too intimated to help these people who are hurting and to walk beside them when they need us most.

I’ve been thinking about this woman today. What was going on in her life where she thought suicide was her only way out? Did she lose her job and feel hopeless in our down-turned economy? Had her husband left her or passed away months earlier? Had she been battling depression for years and this year was the last straw? I have no idea. But for many, the Christmas season is not a time of joy, and we often do not know how to sit with others in the midst of their struggles. This is especially true when we may be caught up in the joy of the season.

However, as Christians, we have good news to share. Perhaps more now than ever, people need to hear this good news that God has come among us to bring about restoration to the world. To bring us love, hope, peace, and joy. The world is a dark and broken place, but God dwells with us in the midst of a broken and hurting world. And as Christ’s followers we should be this same presence to others.

There are people all around us who are hurting. They have pasted-on smiles and are half-heartedly wishing us a Merry Christmas. Will we look beyond the veneer of holiday cheer? Will we be bold and patient enough to sit with others in the midst of dark times? Will we be there to guide them to the true advent light–Jesus, the light of the world. Will we show them that there is a Comforter and Restorer who walks with them, who is offering them joy this Christmas?

A reflection by Angie Rines.

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Angie is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Presbyterian Church in Morristown. Angie tweets from @AngelaRines and blogs at http://angierines.wordpress.com