By Philo Kinera

Matthew 2:13-23

“A voice was heard in Ramah sobbing and lamenting loudly: it was Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, for they were no more.” Matthew 2:18

The day before Christmas I attended two funerals of my dear friends. During our Blue Christmas service, I heard of stories of loss and pain. There were many other things I had to attend to during this festive season and when my head hits the pillow I take a few deep breaths to relax and say to myself “so this is Christmas.”

When we hear the Christmas story, the part about Jesus being a refugee is often glossed over. The Christmas story involves an exodus out of Egypt, fleeing from oppressive leaders. No one knows how long a refugee will be a refugee. (“Stay there until I tell you,” The angel says.)

Refugees often flee for their lives; death is the risk of staying.  There was genocide (“Herod is going…to kill him.”).  Added to this is an unwed pregnant teenager, a child born in a refugee crisis.

That little detail threatens to get in the way of our silent nights, happy manger scenes with cuddly barn animals, and a brightly twinkling star. But Jesus was born into a chaotic situation.

Matthew 2:13-23 seems like such an offensive text to be reading on Christmas Day. The“Slaughter of the Innocents”. Amid our celebrations, and in the midst of the gospel writer’s account of the birth of Christ, this horrendous story of the slaughter of innocents begs the question:  WHY? It’s Christmas for heaven’s sake!

So, this is Christmas, and what have we done? John Lennon who was murdered on December 8, 1980, shot by a deranged fan. sang this song,  which haunts our Christmases. So, what possible difference can Christmas make? Let’s listen to the song:

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

War is over over
If you want it
War is over


We haven’t even had a chance to finish our celebrations and the news is far from good. Thousands continue to die in world is in a mess.  People continue to suffer in the aftermath of disaster.  The ‘war on terror’ rages on as one side scores points on the other at the cost of human flesh and the word “drone” has taken on a horrific meaning.   Hunger continues to claim the lives of the poor despite the fact that we have more than enough food to feed the world. Poverty continues to enslave millions the world over. There is no regard for human life, execution takes in the name of God.  One refugee told me in his own words “God’s children killing God’s children.”  It never stops.

And so, this is Christmas, and what have we done?

For we are the ones to whom a child was born.

We are the ones to whom a saviour was given.

A saviour who is Christ the Lord.

A saviour sent to provide hope to the world.

And we are the ones in whom Christ lives.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, for God has done great things for us!

Christ lives and breathes in us.

So, we are the ones God has sent to save the world.

So, this is Christmas and what have we done?

Clearly, we have work to do!

The work of Christmas has barely begun.

If the slaughter of innocents is to end, we’d better get busy.

Rachel is weeping for her children.

And God knows why she weeps.

Rachel weeps because her children are no more.

And Rachel, their mother, refuses to be comforted.

Rachel’s children—our children—born for love and mercy, die from neglect and ugliness and Rachel weeps bitterly.

There’s a little book of prayers called: “Children’s Letters to God”. The prayers in that book have the power to make you smile and cry all at once. The very first letter to God in that book reads: “Dear God, in Sunday School, they told us what you do. Who does it, God, when you are on vacation?” We may smile, but sometimes it feels as if for all intents and purposes, God is on vacation. For surely God would not stand idly by and allow so many innocents to perish?

Once we broaden our images of God—the source of our being, the One who dwells in us—we can begin to see that the place where we have traditionally located the Divine One changes from ‘up there’, to ‘in and around here’. And  we can begin to seek God not out there but within and around us. If God is on vacation, it is because we are on vacation. For the Divine One works in, with and through us to sooth the pain caused by violence and greed.

Our God is not on vacation. Despite appearances to the contrary, our God is not absent, but God is surely weeping. For in Christ God showed us the way. The Christmas story insists that our God is in-fleshed and dwells among us. This changes everything. It’s not enough to pray with words expecting some far-off deity to change the world. The changing of this world will happen when we begin to live into our full humanity and the sacred nature of our very being shines forth with LOVE. For we are God’s people on earth; Christ’s body on earth and it is through Christ’s body that God will save the innocents. There’s no time for us to waste feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems. It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get busy.

And so, this is Christmas… Rachel weeps.  Our God has taken on flesh and dwells among us!  It’s time for the work of Christmas to begin again. We are God’s hands!


‘I heard the bells on Christmas Day’ is a truly unusual song, based on an 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Instead of the expected Christmas joy and mirth, the lyric forms a lament, crying out, “and in despair I bowed my head/there is no peace on earth I said/for hate is strong and mocks the song/of peace on earth, goodwill to men.” This lament, however moves forward with hope, reassuring us that “God is not dead nor does God sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/with peace on earth goodwill toward man.

Life is filled with reasons for lament, and we all experience them on a regular basis. But if we allow that lament to point us to the God of Hope we can sing joyfully even if we sing through our tears.

I would like to end with the words of Helen Jesty:

Let the bells jingle

Let the bells jingle but make time for the tears to fall.

Eat, drink and be merry but do not go hungry in that inner place.

Rest, reflect and remember. Be true to yourself.

Many of us can’t play happy families at this time of the year.

December is for a difficult diagnosis as well as dreaming of a white Christmas.

December is for divorce as well as decorations.

December is for death and dying as well as discos and dancing.

December is for distances that separate us from people, even those in the same room.

Disappointments in December are especially hard to bear.

Sometimes the light no longer shines in the darkness.

The desolation swallows us up and we die a little.


Yet a kindly word, a bird in flight, a tree alive with hoar and hips

can drown out despair and kindle determination to move on.

Dig down deeper than the tinsel to the place where hope is found.

Maybe, just maybe, the flickering flame will be fanned gently into fire.

So, dear friends, rejoice and be glad, for unto us a child has been born, a child born some 2000 years ago; a child born just the other day, a child born this very moment, a child has been born who is the Christ; our God Emmanuel who dwells in, with and through us.



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