“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
On December 28, the church remembers the slaughter of the innocents. Herod’s fear drove him to murder every male toddler in his kingdom. It makes the word genocide even harder to utter. Especially after the Christmas manger, the scene feels too horrid to even imagine. It seems like a small comfort that Joseph escaped with Mary and the Christ-child as Herod’s soldiers went from house to house to murder those left behind. It’s a small comfort today in the face of the same slaughter of children, the same loss, the same pain.
Prophesies were fulfilled and angels spoke to Joseph in a dream. Rachel still weeps for her children. I’ve seen her tears stream down more faces than I want to think about. There’s no Christmas carol that asks why Jesus would allow Himself to be born helpless in the face of so many people who needed His help. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. Around Him, Herod was slaughtering infants while looking for Him. And He made Himself too little to stop it. Today, the slaughter continues. It’s framed under the word choice, but even in the most scientific of explanations, organic life becomes…dead. God still seems every bit as far away from the tragedy of it all.
You can tell people God is everywhere, but it doesn’t make them feel better, because if God is everywhere, why did this happen? It’s no wonder the scriptures say Rachel refuses to be comforted. This Rachel recalled by the prophet died in childbirth. Things weren’t ok. It wasn’t about perspective, it wasn’t that she had a bad outlook on life and just needed to smile more and think positive. Things weren’t OK. With her dying breath, she named her child Ben-oni, son of my sorrow, son of my strength. After she died, her husband called him Benjamin, son of my right hand.
You’re allowed to be frustrated. Remember Rachel who who weeps at the sight of the destruction wrought on this world and cannot be comforted. You’re allowed to mourn. Remember Rachel who died during childbirth. As far as God seems in all of it, know He weeps too. He shared in the tears that poured down her face. But He would not be far from the tragedy of it all. He spoke through her last breath, and through her husband’s name. By a dying woman’s last breath, He showed what He would be to a people who need Him.
He would be called Son of my sorrow. The helpless God took flesh to do more than prevent suffering. He would suffer for us. He did not flee to Egypt to escape pain, but take each necessary step to Jerusalem to bear the suffering of all the world as He hung on the cross to help the helpless. He died for the martyrs and murders alike. He ransomed the captives and the captors. He took the place of the monsters and bled so that massacres would be avenged. He dove into death to pull the children back into life even as He burst from the tomb 3 days later.
He would be called Son of my strength. Not just Son of my emotional stability. Not just Son of my cheery outlook. The Lord God is our strength and our help. In these days, Rachel weeps, and cannot be comforted, for her children are no more, but this is not too great a thing for Christ to fix. The Lord answered weeping Rachel and said “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.” Christ is risen from the dead. He’ll just have to make those who Rachel weeps for rise too, that we would all be brought back from the land of the enemy. Because Jesus is the true Son of the Father’s right hand. There He sits in power, ruling a messy world. The world’s still messy, but we find hope, even when we don’t like what it looks like. We don’t measure the world. We measure the cross and the empty tomb.
Christ permits the church to be afflicted, and even calls it blessing. We share in His sufferings, and find that His true glory is revealed in suffering. His glory looks like Him suffering on the cross for sinners. His glory looks like forgiveness and mercy for a sinful people who deserve to be erased. His rule from the right Hand of the Father is one that even works among sin and brokenness. We who suffer entrust our souls to a Creator who is faithful. Who does good, even amongst evil and for evil people. Who baptizes Christians into death and into life again. Into victory that is called ‘victory’, even before we see it in this world.
It makes Christianity look like a failure. It’s looked that way from the beginning of it, when our infant God had to run from a tyrant, yet here we still are, the ones who Christ has saved. That means that our identity isn’t victim. Christianity isn’t just pity me. Look how bad things are. Christianity is look what Lord has done for us. Look at the comfort God gives. Find Him where He has promised to work among the rubble of a broken world to carry forward those redeemed. Find Him in His body and blood on your altar at church. Find Him in your neighbor through vocation, working to help. We can weep at the slaughter, but we do not despair. Our Christ shared in our sufferings, that we will share in His glory.