Holy Innocents

by Christine Sine

by Rev. Jeannie Kendall


For some of us at least, if we are really honest, we would rather ignore the part in the Christmas story about Herod’s massacre at Bethlehem. Enough to manage the shock of God’s outrageous risk in entrusting the rescue of his world (and universe) to two unknowns – at least one a teenager – and the precarious nature, especially at that time, of childbirth. How do we begin to process the cost not just to God, but to the nameless families in Bethlehem?

It is not just the historical outrages that we shun, however. Aleppo, the Yemen, countless other places where babies and children die at the hands of our violence and greed – our senses and emotions feel assaulted by the horror and so we close down the emerging thoughts and feelings (and often silence the TV or skip sections in the paper).The reaction is understandable, in our perceived helplessness. The scale of suffering causes our compassion to implode: if we felt the full pain of it we would, surely, be subsumed with grief?

I have no answer. But I do wonder if it may help us, whether looking back to Herod or out to our world, to remember that this is essentially the story of individuals. Each one unique, known to God, and loved by him, however different from that it must feel in the maelstrom of pain.

Perhaps a little like this…

Grandmother in Bethlehem

I wasn’t ready to become a grandmother.
Somehow it signalled so much:
The gradual dwindling of my own youth
Cemented by this one act:
Denial of my own mortality
Somehow eroded by this new title.

But then I saw him
And it all changed.
Tiny toes, first blue
From traumatic delivery
Then glorious pink
And my heart burst
With relief and  pride
And deep protectiveness.
A love like no other.

I was holding him
When the soldiers came.
Never had I so cursed
Female weakness.
I tried to hold him,
Screamed as they pushed me aside
Like the has-been I felt.

I would have died to save him.
And now I only wish I could.

This post is part of our reflections on Advent and Christmas 2016.

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1 comment

afwade December 28, 2016 - 10:26 am

Moved to tears by your poem, Jeannie.

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