On this day in AD 1 it is said that King Herod of Judea ordered the massacre of all children under the age of two in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem. His plan was to eliminate any possible emergence of a Messiah who might challenge his authority.
As the scriptures tell it; “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod”. When Herod realised that he had been outwitted, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Thus the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children.” Here is Oscar Wilde’s Sonnet about a more recent massacre – The Slaughter of the Christians in Bulgaria, that still resonates today:
Christ, dost thou live indeed? or are thy bones
Still straightened in their rock-hewn sepulchre?
And was thy Rising only dreamed by Her
Whose love of thee for all her sin atones?
For here the air is horrid with men’s groans,
The priests who call upon thy name are slain,
Dost thou not hear the bitter wail of pain
From those whose children lie upon the stones?
Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom
Curtains the land, and through the starless night
Over thy Cross the Crescent moon I see!
If thou in very truth didst burst the tomb
Come down, O Son of Man! and show thy might,
Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!
Today I give thanks for the birth and life of Christ. I ask that slaughter and suffering in the world will cease.