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.
Some 1,900 years before the first Christmas Day, a man walked down a road in the land of Canaan, in the general area called Ramah. It was a sad sight. He had just buried his beloved wife near a small town called Bethlehem. His name was Jacob. She had been called Rachel.
We turn the pages of history ahead to shortly after the birth of Jesus. We look in again to the area called Ramah. Once again it is a sad sight.
Had we walked down that road near Rachel’s grave, we would have heard the sound of crying coming out from many houses. The news reaching our ears would have torn at our hearts. We would have heard about soldiers who came looking for babies. When they found one, they ran it through with a sword. Bedrooms, kitchens, and doorsteps were smeared with blood.
King Herod had given the command to kill every baby under two. When screaming mothers asked why, the soldiers probably replied that they were only carrying out orders. But we know the reason for the orders. Herod was afraid. Herod was jealous. He had learned that the King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. Herod wanted Jesus dead.
King Herod was not the first one to have innocent children killed, nor would he be the last. The wail of mothers weeping over murdered children has drifted down the centuries to our own times, and our own nation. The question easily arises: “Why doesn’t God prevent such atrocities?”
He did prevent harm coming to the wise men. An angel warned them to return home without reporting back to Herod. An angel warned Joseph to quickly take his family to Egypt because, “Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Did God not know that other Bethlehem babies would be killed? Of course, he did.
God knew this would happen. God foretold this would happen. But God did not prevent this from happening.
We are not told why it had to happen. This question, and the thousands of other ones we might ask of God are answered with silence. We are told the ways of the all-knowing, all-powerful God are always just, always perfect. He acts only in love for his people. Only those in heaven will understand. Those yet on earth must trust.
The birth of the Son of God into the world is proof that God knows and cares about what is happening on earth. Six hundred years before the Slaughter of the Innocents took place, he had his prophet, Jeremiah, describe the scene. Since this would happen near Rachel’s grave, in poetic language, he presents it as if Rachel were the one crying.
God is in control. Why he planned for those babies to have such short lives, we do not know. But baby Jesus would escape. The guilty would face divine justice. The mission of the Christ-child would not be stopped. The human race would be rescued from its guilt, and shame, and never-ending punishment.
On a dark Friday some 30 years later, the world would again see a sad sight. Women would again weep over the death of an innocent one. This Innocent One would be a direct descendent of Rachel. But unlike her grave, his tomb quickly became empty. He soon went back to his home in heaven. When he comes again it will be to take every last one of his children safely home with him. This is the promise: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Today, Rachel weeps no more. Nor do those who have joined her in heaven.
Nor will we.
Prayer: Lord of life and death, we cannot comprehend your ways. We know that you are just, and that you punish evil. We also know that you blot out our crimes from your book because of your Son, who paid for them with his life. Help us keep our eyes fixed upon your faithfulness when we cannot understand why you allow sad things to take place. Point us to Jesus, who was willing to enter this jungle of hatred, and jealousy, and death. Remind us that you were willing to allow him to be murdered—at the time and place of your choosing—so that we might live forever. Dry, now, the tears of those who weep over loved ones departed. It is in the name of the Babe of Bethlehem that we pray. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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