On the fourth day of Christmas… we remember the Holy Innocents

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” 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 2.13-18

On the 28thDecember we remember those whose innocent lives were taken from them through violent means. Traditionally, we remember the numbers of toddlers who were killed by Herod in and around Bethlehem as he was trying to remove any possibility that Jesus might one day take his, Herod’s place, as ‘king.’

More widely, we remember all those who have lost their lives through violence. Not just children, but any soul whose life has been cut short. Anyone who suffers at the hands of others and those who do not feel that human life should be valued. Those who have lost their child, and close family members too who grieve for the loss of a family member.

We ask God to hold these people close and in return that these people may feel the closeness of God. We ask for safety and security for children that they may grow up knowing the love they receive is healthy and nurturing. We ask for grace upon those in care and for those looking after them. We ask for wisdom and discernment for those in positions of power and authority that they act accordingly when action is required to ensure the health and safety of all those whose lives may be in danger. We thank you God that you ask for all the children be brought to you and that you bless them.

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:14b-16.