As I sit down to read and write this morning, I see this headline in the news:
“Teen mom tosses newborn baby in the dumpster.”
My heart cries for that little one tossed away like garbage. What is the thought process that would lead any person to bag up a little boy, throw him in the trunk, drive to a dumpster, and toss the bag in like so much trash? The mere idea of it disturbs the very core of my soul. It’s so easy to pretend we live in a world where even though we know evil things happen somewhere out there, surely nothing THIS evil could ever happen. Then it does, and we are troubled and disturbed. Some things should remain unviolated, pure and should never change; such is the love of a mother for her baby. It’s the picture-perfect image of love. Nothing could be more beautiful, idyllic, warm and comforting than a mother holding her baby safely in her gentle arms, like Mary cradling the baby Jesus, treasuring it all up in her heart.
A baby in a trash bag messes with my mind.
But every day, in many and various ways, this picture-perfect image and ideal of love—a mother and her baby–is chopped-up and cut into so many pieces at any Planned Parenthood and other facilities all around the country. It’s silly to pretend otherwise. I have to ask myself, why should I be horrified by the idea of a teen mom throwing away her baby in the trash, when essentially, the same thing happens every day through abortion? In the real world we live in—not the idealized one we imagine–mothers might just choose to kill their babies rather than hold them. Indeed, the killing of children in the womb has been a hotly debated issue for as long as I’ve been alive. I honestly don’t know what the world would be like without this evil. As a father of three biological children, one adopted child, and one soon-to-be adopted, I sometimes shake my head in disbelief that my children can be so safe and secure, loved and cherished, while countless others are treated like trash.
This too messes with my mind.
And, lo and behold, even Christmas isn’t left unspoiled by all this. What a contrast weeping Rachel makes with gentle Mary. Matthew records that on that first Christmas the little boys of Bethlehem were not kept safe in their mother’s arms. King Herod had no qualms about robbing the mothers of Bethlehem of their precious ones, cutting those little boys up with a sword. Our hearts break for poor Rachel, weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted. I don’t want to be comforted, either. I want justice.
But Matthew makes no remarks about it. Like reading through the news headlines—articles which are supposed to be neutral—Matthew doesn’t give any commentary on these events. We are left to wonder what all this means. Thrown in our faces is the brutal truth that in world where infants are callously slaughtered, there can be no pretending that this world isn’t broken and corrupted by sin. No matter how comfortable and normal our lives my typically seem (especially when we stay away from the news for a while), Matthew shows us that cold, calculated, murderous episodes like this define the real world—our world.
However, by recording all of this for us, Matthew wants us to know that this is the world… Jesus was born to save.
Sometimes we need the cold, hard truth to shock us. God is honest. Search the Scriptures and you will see more than enough examples of humanity stripped of our pretend sophistication and civilization. In Scripture you will see rapists and idolaters, adulterers and murderers. Herod’s atrocity or a teen mom throwing her baby in a dumpster… all of it is the God-honest truth. These are the things we should expect to see in a world corrupted by sin. And none of it is really any worse than the other, although we get accustomed to some sin more than others. For example, what Herod does shocks us more than hearing about abortion in the news.
But the massacre of Herod’s soldiers does not stand out because his deed is so much darker than that of anyone else; it stands out because its evil is silhouetted against the brightness and holiness of the Savior’s birth, in the same way that the brutality of abortion contrasts so sharply with the image of a mother cradling her baby in her arms.
All of these stories and headlines call us back to reality, least we forget or grow complacent about the reality we live in and the need that we have for one who can save us. Herod’s evil actions also force us to consider another stark contrast that we will behold as we read through the Gospel of Matthew–that the little hands we glimpse in the manger will someday be pierced with nails; that the beautiful, chubby-cheeked face of the baby Jesus will, in adulthood, be struck by angry fists; His forehead crowned with thorns.
Herod forces us to see Jesus has come to save souls from sin… even the souls of men like herod or countless mothers who deal with the aftermath of the choice to have an abortion.
And, yes, in beholding all this, we must remember, too, that the way that God works through His love for us in Jesus Christ will always be a mystery. We’ll probably never really know why the baby boys in Bethlehem entered into glory even before their Lord did. Why didn’t the angel who warned Joseph also warn them? I’m sure the parents who mourned their children didn’t see how their little boy’s deaths fit into God’s plan. Death never makes sense to us. Who knows, maybe thirty-three years later when Jesus was crucified, those parents saw and said to one another, “If our little boy had lived, he would be as old as this Jesus is. Thank God our boy didn’t ever have to face anything like this.” Perhaps some of them even came to understand and rejoice in how the death of Jesus was for their baby boy, even as we glory in the cross, today. Or maybe, they never understood any of it at all and only had God to rely on until they themselves got to heaven and saw how it all fit together.
We just don’t know.
But you and I are blessed to know one very important thing. You and I know the baby for whose sake the baby boys in Bethlehem were slaughtered. We understand that His death on the cross was for our salvation and for theirs, and we know that if God did this for us, then no power of sin or of the world or of Satan can ever separate us from the love of God. We may have to suffer and our suffering may be bloody and even deadly’ but even if it is not so dramatic as that, we know that we will all have to suffer the pain of denying ourselves for the sake of others. That’s the most fundamental part of being a child of God. Indeed, that’s one of the chief blessings of having family—siblings, parents, spouse, baby boys and girls. These are the people that God puts into our lives to love and cherish, protect and serve, even has He loves, cherishes, protects and serves us.
With such faith we walk with all the martyrs and with all the saints of every age, as one, holy, Christian church, led by our Lord and Savior who leads us from this church militant–with all it’s troubling things–into the church triumphant where Rachel and all her babies are comforted.