In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[…] And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1, 14 NRSV
When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, … When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi.
Matthew 2:13, 16 CEB
From the Gospel read on the Feast of the Holy Innocents,
Remembering Holy Innocents, December 28
The merriment of Christmas and the profound mystery proclaimed by John (John 1:1ff) are in stark contrast to the brutal events perpetrated by Herod (Matthew 2:13ff), the violent slaughter in Newtown, CT, and daily reports of the death of children (0–17) due to abuse, neglect, and violence.
John Thatamanil, is an Associate Professor of Theology and World Religions at Union Theological Seminary in New York and is a member of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel at Vanderbilt. Yesterday (12/27/12) he posted an essay “Christmas in Newtown and Bethlehem.” In it, he speaks to the contrast and its meaning for us who seek to follow Christ:
The slaughter of innocents and the birth of a child in excruciating vulnerability — this is a profoundly counterintuitive way to speak of God’s coming. Unlike the light and unblemished merriness that we wish each other every Christmas, the Bible offers no happily-ever-after fairy tale. The world into which the Christian Messiah enters is shattered by terror and ruled by Roman imperial power and its client dictators.
The Gospel narratives suggest that the coming of God does not (then or now) undo our capacity to inflict violence upon each other nor does it radically reconfigure the conditions under which we live out our lives. On the contrary, these very conditions, in all their fragility, are sanctified by incarnation. When God assumes flesh and enters the world, this very world is accepted and embraced.
God does not first remake the world in order to enter it, and entering the world does not diminish the dignity of divinity. The incarnation affirms that our fragility and frailty are not contrary to divine intention. Rather, they too are taken up by divinity when God becomes flesh. This world, as it stands, offers the necessary conditions for love and community. The coming of God as a child affirms that this fragile world is as it ought to be.
God does not come to eradicate vulnerability but to teach us how to welcome it. Love comes to open our eyes to look for holiness not in might and power, not in any futile attempt to secure ourselves against each other by force of arms, but precisely in our delicate bonds with each other.