Posted by: mikebackup | November 17, 2009

To re-member

Matthew 2.16-18
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
‘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.”

Come with me, in your imagination, on a journey. Let us go back to Bethlehem, a year or so after the birth of Jesus. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are long gone but that’s OK, we’ve not come to see them. It’s evening time and through the dusty streets a quiet solemnity fills the air. People are going about their lives, packing up for the day, but it’s as if the bodies are working but their minds are somewhere else.

We walk past the doorway of a typical home and leaning against the doorway is a man who looks tired and haunted by his own thoughts. He begins to speak. “This time of night at this time of year brings it all back. As the light fades from the day I am attacked by the demons that wait until I am weak. I cannot escape and the pain, emptiness and despair fills my whole body. The birth of our son had made us complete, a joy to behold. My Wife had recovered well and he was healthy and strong, he was going to make it.”

“On the night it happened we had just finished our evening meal. To begin with we heard the distant sounds of pots breaking and scuffling. Then there was the first of the screams, a scream so terrible that we stop and stared at each other in panic. What was happening? Then there was another scream, and the sounds of objects hitting the walls. It was getting closer and louder and now we could hear the heavy footsteps, the screams got louder, there was more and more of them. I looked out and could see soldiers with swords and daggers charging into every home. They were coming our way. What was happening, we had done nothing wrong. I told my Wife to hide and hold our son.”

“No sooner had I said that when three soldiers with drawn daggers entered the house. Blood ran down the blades and dripped on the floor. I was not afraid to die so I started to push them out and grabbed what I could to hit them with. They hit me hard back, but they didn’t finish me. When I was beaten and on the floor they left me and went back into the house. I was covered in blood and I couldn’t stand. I started to grasp at the dirt, trying so desperately to crawl back to the house. That’s when I heard my Wife screaming and shouting “no”, “no”. I got to the doorway to see the soldiers stabbing my son. His screams turned to choking as blood quickly filled his mouth. With one last look of total fear he was gone. The soldiers ran out and then the pain of losing him in this horror starting to hit me.”

“I started to be sick, the pain and shock to much for me, I couldn’t breath. I moved towards my Wife who was screaming, rocking backwards and forwards holding our son. My body seized up in total pain and despair. Nothing but pain, nothing but despair. We were transfixed by the horror for hours, unable to think, speak or move. Our eyes and minds were filled with the horror of our dead son lying lifeless in our arms. At one point I had to do something, just something for him. I reached for our best blanket and wrapped him up in it. The hours passed and our cries and the cries of others who were facing the same horror were faded by exhaustion. When the sun rose the next morning our cold bodies were still contained by the terror of it all. The evil, the injustice, the pain, the loss.”

“When the sun was high and the day warm, our bodies started moving as if by themselves. Our minds were locked in a deep dark place with no escape. Our hands pick up the mess, cleaned our faces and bodies. Our son was prepared for burial along with those other sons that been torn from our friends and neighbours. We did not speak, we did not look up. Whatever this existence was, it was not life. In the days and weeks that followed I hated the way normal life started to encroach on my pain. I didn’t want to leave the pain as it was the place closest to my son and I didn’t want to leave him. The worst thing was when for a moment I was taken in by the normality of life, the hammer of loss beat down on me and that pain was the worst of all. I had lost my son and I was forgetting him. I had to remember, but how could I move on and not leave him behind?”

“A thought came to me one day that might help. I couldn’t believe why I hadn’t thought of it before. Through the pain and loss we had forgotten to find out why it had happened. It wasn’t easy, no-one seemed to know much, other than it was Herod’s soldiers that did the killing. We know Herod is evil, he knows about good, but is frightened of it in case it threatens his power, so he kills it. I paid the contacts I knew, to pay the soldiers to pay the generals to get something from someone near to Herod’s twisted mind. What came back at first I didn’t believe. He had felt threatened by a new baby that had be born in the town. That made me sick with grief again. Herod had lost his mind and thought a baby could hurt him. As he didn’t know which one, he killed them all. The pointlessness of it all had cost us our son in the most evil of ways. Then something else came through, that this baby was not just any baby, but a baby that seemed to fulfil prophecy. This was Israel’s Saviour. Indeed wise men from afar had seen the signs and had asked Herod where they could find him so that they could worship him.”

“Herod was scared by this news, but didn’t let it show. He said he wanted to know where the baby was so that he too could worship him. He was lying, he really wanted to kill him, as nothing must threaten his power. He never found out where the baby was so he decided to kill all of them to make sure. For some reason though, those that know about this feel that the baby was not found.”

“If that is true and what has been said about this baby is true then what little life I have left is presented in hope to him. If he is indeed a saviour then he will not be like Herod, wanting power and exercising evil to protect that. He will be good and want to reject evil. He will want to love, comfort, cry and suffer with those that are victims of the evil of this world. He will want to show light where there is darkness”.

“Our memory is cruel, it connects us with the terrible moments in our lives and we have to relive the pain over and over again. For as long as there is breath in my body I will be connected to the night we lost our son. It is a cold, dark evil place of despair that cuts me down. I have to keep hope alive though and have faith in that baby that he will grow up and show a way of goodness that will once and for all overcome the darkness of evil.

Go in peace my friend.”

And with that the man disappears into the shadows and we move on, pondering the story we have been told. We are forever connected with what has happened in our lives through our memory and it is the painful memories that always open up the old wounds. The scars never go away, but then we don’t want them too as that would mean we forget. The scars speak of loss, pain, grief, suffering and darkness and though we will always remain connected to them, we can have hope as well. As Christians we believe that baby did grow up to be a man that indeed showed love, comfort, cried and suffered with those victims of a fallen world. We can hope that he showed a way of goodness that once and for all overcame the darkness of evil. That hope can be rooted in faith that God is a goodness and love so bright that in his kingdom no darkness can be found.

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