Readings: Psalm 124; Jeremiah 31:15-17; Revelation 21:1-7; Matthew 2:11b-18
Opening their treasure chests, they (the Magi) offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Now after they had left, and 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 fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
When Herod say 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 2:11b-18, NRSV]
In all my years at church, I’ve only heard one or two sermons on it. No one seems eager to offer such a horror story between Christmas at the manger and magi on Epiphany. The magi go home by another road, Jesus and his family escape to Egypt; it’s easier to focus on these good outcomes than on what happened in the left behind town of Bethlehem. But the story is there, a testament to the cruelty the world visits upon the young and innocent who lack the means or opportunity to find a safe haven.
The madness of a single person in a position of power can extinguish life, stealing the future of so many without thought and sometimes seemingly without repercussions. Sometimes, such evil is hard to see or understand in a direct way ; it’s contours are obscured in darkness. It is only when a light is shining that it becomes visible, and is recognized for what it is.
Epiphany is revelation, a light shining on God In Our World. Epiphany is revelation, a light shining on evil within our world and ourselves. I would do well to remember this. Better to see the cruelty in my own heart and offer it up to God for transformation than to visit it upon the innocents in my own place and time.