The church calendar refers to this day as the Feast Day of Holy Innocents. It commemorates the children who died because of Herod's fear of the birth of another king, a king who would take his throne away. I had known both the story and the name of the feast day for a number of years.
But on December 28, 1989, that date changed for me forever. At 12:35 p.m. on that day, my wife gave birth to our first child, Sarah. When I looked at Sarah I thought she was the most beautiful baby ever to enter this world. Her mother agreed with me wholeheartedly. Now Margaret and I laugh at ourselves, because Sarah's photos from that time picture a red and wrinkled little baby who looks very much like every other newborn. You see, we were looking at her through the eyes of first-time parents, through the lens of a mother's and a father's love.
Since the day of Sarah's birth, the children in the cruel story of Herod's fear have had a face—the face of my daughter. No longer are they faceless, nameless characters. I feel for every parent who has ever lost a child to death, abduction, or poverty. I hear their stories, and the fear wells up inside of me. What if one of my children suddenly disappeared?
The holy innocents still die in this country and around the world. God sees each of them with the eye of a mother's and father's love. To God each is the most beautiful precious child that was ever born. Neither the circumstances of their birth, the color of their skin, nor the language and culture they will one day learn matter.
In each child I see the face of my own child. In each child I see the face of the child Jesus who escaped Herod's wrath but could not escape the cruelty of the world entirely.
Gracious God, help me view all your children through the eyes of parental love. May I see Jesus in the face of every child. Amen.
These scriptures chosen to mark the new year give us a panorama of perspectives, from Ecclesiastes as a poetic musing on how life is measured out in seasons, to the vision in Revelation of what we commonly consider the end of time itself. Psalm 8 asks what the role is for humans in God’s magnificent creation. At the core of these scriptures is a strong sense of God’s presence and loving steadfastness in which we can rest.
Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-13. In what season of life do you find yourself? What are you praying for in this season?
Read Psalm 8. How do you feel when you read the psalmist’s words that God has created humans “a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5)?
Read Revelation 21:1-6a. How is the vision of a new heaven and new earth described here good news for you? What do you see God making new in the world around you?
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