Childermas -- Rev. Scott Dickison
By the time you read these words the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School will be more than a week old, which in a world of 24-hour media coverage might as well be an eternity. Perhaps over this past week you have been like me and taken in what coverage and commentary you could stomach—which hasn’t been much—before trying your best to turn your mind to other things. And perhaps, like me, you’ve been unable to completely do so.
We as a church did our best to acknowledge and lift up the terrible events of that Friday in our Festival of Lessons and Carols Sunday morning, as well as in our annual Service for Grieving Persons later that night. It’s my hope that in both our rejoicing that morning and our grieving that night, together as a community we offered a humble but vital testimony to the possibilities this season of Advent holds for coping with and understanding such brutality.
And yet on the horizon of our liturgical calendar there is lesser-known but potent holy day that may speak to this tragedy even more explicitly. While most Protestants and Baptists do not observe it, the 28th of December in the Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic traditions is “Holy Innocents’ Day,” or more traditionally, “Childermas.” The “Children’s Mass,” remembers the account in Matthew when Herod ordered the slaying of all children two or younger in an attempt to end the story of Jesus before it began. Tradition remembers this as the “Massacre of the Innocents.” And in an attempt to make sense of such unspeakable tragedy, Matthew does something that may hold some healing potential for us today.
First, he reads the present through the past, and remembers to us the harrowing words of the prophet Jeremiah during the exile to Babylon, “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” Matthews reminds us we live in a world scarred many times over by tragedy, loss, unspeakable violence, and at times utter darkness.
But then—and more importantly—for the next 26 chapters he offers his testimony about what God is doing about it.
And this is what we must do. We must remember, painful as it is, that we live in a broken and wounded world. But more importantly we should offer our testimony about what God is doing to mend and heal it. To mend and heal us.
May you have a blessed Christmas. And may it be for you a time to bask in the warmth of the season, so that you may take the light of Christ with you back into a world in desperate need of it.