Thus says the LORD:
In Ramah is heard the sound of sobbing,
Rachel mourns for her children,
she refuses to be consoled
for her children—they are no more!
This feast is so jarring with its close proximity to Christmas! It mainly leaves me with a ton of questions…
What does it say that the Church commemorates the murder of little boys in Bethlehem and vicinity… and that Jesus got off Scott-free?
What does it say about why the powerful exercise their might through violence to protect their status? It shows how Herod is ruthless, certainly. Who but those feeling threatened by the announcement of a new king would think of killing these innocents?
Would Jesus have experienced survivor’s guilt in his youth? I’m sure he would have heard the stories about the massacre of the little boys. How might this have affected him?
Why does the Church have us remember profound grief this close to Christmas? “Rachel weeping for her children…”
Further, what does the context of the quotation from Jeremiah say to us? It seems to point to hope and surprising joy. Go figure. These lines follow immediately upon the passage Matthew refers to.
Thus says the LORD:
Cease your cries of weeping,
hold back your tears!
There is compensation for your labor—
oracle of the LORD—
they shall return from the enemy’s land.
There is hope for your future—oracle of the LORD—
your children shall return to their own territory (See Jeremiah 31:15-17)
Further, what does the context of the quotation from Jeremiah say to us? It could be reduced to a sound byte: “Don’t worry, be happy! Things will work out!” It could be interpreted as compensation for loss. God “making up for damages.”
Or, is it a proof that “God must have wanted these children and taken them home?” From where I stand these days, I doubt it and find it an offensive statement.
There seems to be, though, two strong realities to hold together, the essence of paradox. On the one hand is profound suffering and grief. On the other is the promise from God of a new day, a new creation, a new reality characterized by return, blessing, and healing.