Saturday, December 8, 2012

Second Sunday of Advent

The truth is, God takes the suffering home with him. In another place I wrote of how a visiting pastor, at my church, told of the sufferings and good deeds of two pastors in the Sudan. His text was the story of the killing of the children of Bethlehem—the boys, two years old or younger. King Herod was attempting to destroy the boy Jesus, because he feared that a King appointed by God would take his place.  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in one of his Christmas sermons, 1940, also uses this text. In the Old Testament it is:

A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more. (Jeremiah 31:15)

Rev. Toby Nelson, the visiting pastor, explained that there were probably no more than nine or so infants killed in this back-water place, but God in his infinite compassion cares for the least. Bonhoeffer understood that this event was not unknown to God—it was part of the suffering of Christ. As he writes of the weeping that could not and should not stop:

The weeping over the witness unto death of Jesus Christ rises and will not be silenced throughout time, until the end. It is the weeping over the world, estranged from God and hostile to Christ, over the blood of the innocent, over the world’s own guilt and sin, for whom Jesus himself came to suffer. But in the midst of this inconsolable weeping, there is a great consolation: Jesus Christ lives and we will live with him, if we suffer with him.

The massacre of the innocents in Bethlehem, for all its godless horror, must ultimately serve God in bringing his promises to fulfillment. Suffering and tears come over God’s people. But they are costly to God, because Christ has gathered them to himself of his own will and Christ takes them and carries them into eternity.

Jesus bears it all, on the cross, for us—and we wait, in suffering for his return. He has come, to a manger,  he has suffered and died, in his resurrected body Jesus will come. Praise God.

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