Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Massacre of the Innocents--Part II

I simply cannot improve on these words of Gabe Huck, but I can edit them down to make a single point.
Like most other peoples, the Christian people have waited for the solstice. We have waited, and called those waiting days "Advent." We have waited to tell the stories and sing the songs and pray the prayers. We have waited to put into word and melody and procession all that we want to stake our lives on: this place, this earth, this flesh-God's dwelling place.

Before there were theologies for that, there were stories and around the stories there came to be festivity. The stories were not histories or documentaries. They were tales told about a birth by people who had to see everything through the other end of life, the death in which this Jesus triumphed....

And not only, the stories tell, the blood of birth spilled, but other blood, the world's most innocent blood. It is a true story being told for that, we know, is the way it goes, the way it went, the way it will go: We've all known kings like Herod. It's practically a prerequisite for the job: "Sure, somebody's going to get hurt, a few lives lost, but isn't it worth it?" It comes with the territory.

But then consider how the medieval drama called "The Play of Herod" ends: the escape to Egypt, the hasty retreat of the magi, then the intrusion of the military into the village. The children are murdered and Rachel - the biblical mother -
weeps and laments. A comforter is sent by God, but she re-fuses to be comforted because her children are no more. But this is not the end of the play. Did they somehow invent a happy ending? Nothing of the kind. The ending is not happy, it is a great mystery. For there is a Te Deum sung: "We praise you, God, we confess you as Lord." The greatest chant of praise. This is sung by Mary and Joseph, processing through the audience, but they are joined in their song and procession by the animals and the angels, by the shepherds, by the la-menting Rachel and the parents of Bethlehem, and they are joined by the soldiers and their victims and by Herod. Knowing that...they all, incarnate God and all creation, even death, tyrants and martyrs, all process and all sing praise. And we sing too, and find ourselves in the procession.

Today we can't imagine it. We take our Christmas with lots of sugar. And take it in a day. Though we've been baptized into his death, we have little time for or patience with how that death is told at Christmas, a death that confuses lament and praise forever. And no wonder we are careful to keep Christmas at an arm's length. What is Herod in these times?

...From this year's news: how many places, how many innocent?

Where is that mystery in our Christmastime, the mystery that is victorious cross? It is right there in the stories we tell, the carols we sing, the gifts we give and cards we write, the time we take to process through the dozen days from Christmas to Epiphany, the many ways we have to whisper to one another that the days are numbered now for the world's business-as-usual: somehow, some way we are going to join hands and take the procession all over this earth.

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