When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ”A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matt. 2:16-18
Dear Lord Jesus, as we begin this day, unfortunately, we connect with this part of your Advent story in ways that we wish we didn’t have. We know we live in a fallen world. We know that evil hates beauty. We know that Satan hates you. But it’s still hard to wrap our minds around the maniacal holocaust Herod ordered against toddlers and infants, in response to your birth.
Two events yesterday make this story all to real to us. First, the vicious stabbing attack on over twenty children in the Henan province village of Chengping, China; and then, much closer to us, the horrific tragedy that played out in Newtown, Connecticut. Among many things, we feel shock, incredulous, vulnerable and numb. Lord Jesus, center our thoughts and settle our hearts. Hold us, hold us, hold us close to your heart.
As this day begins and continues, show us how to pray for grieving parents, who like Rachel, will refuse to be comforted—for those who need to sit in their loss, without being rushed or hurried to a different place. Surround them with compassionate, courageous friends, who can quietly offer your presence, their tears and few words.
Lord Jesus, we also pray for pastors who will speak for you this weekend—seeking to love and shepherd your lambs well. Give them your heart, your words, your tears. Bring the gospel to bear in profound ways. Help pastors resist the temptation to make the unacceptable acceptable, or to turn a pastoring moment into a political moment. We need more than explanations; we need your transforming presence. Mute the voice of the cynic and simpleton, and magnify the voices of those who speak with the heart and cadence of heaven.
Lord Jesus, thank you, that as your people, we don’t have to pretend about anything—grieving is good. Thank you, that as your people, we can risk hoping, for your name is Redeemer. Even as tears stream down our cheeks this weekend as we sing Joy to the World, it will be with great hope; for you have come to make your blessings flow far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found. May the wonders of your love be proved—in us and through us, in these coming hours and days. So very Amen we pray, in your merciful and mighty name.