Board of Regents Meeting—Oak Grove Lutheran School, Fargo, ND
December 18, 2014
Now after [the wise men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘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.’
In England, near the beginning of the 15th century, a religious order called the Star of Bethlehem decided to welcome some patients into their monastery in London. In time the monastery was named Bethlehem Hospital—the first “lunatic asylum,” as they called it, in all of England. Over the years Bethlehem became shortened and slurred into Bedlam….and soon this hospital for the mentally ill was called Bedlam….a word that eventually became associated with any place or situation characterized by uproar or confusion.
From Bethlehem….to Bedlam…
Sometimes it feels like that in late December. We long for Bethlehem….but instead we encounter Bedlam in our malls, our workplaces, our homes, maybe also our congregations.
Even the church’s calendar has a Bethlehem-to-Bedlam quality about it. On December 25 we observe the Nativity of our Lord, but one day later we remember St Stephen, the first Christian martyr….and three days after Christmas we revisit this gruesome story of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs.
I know preachers fairly well, and I can tell you that whenever one of those two lesser festivals falls on the Sunday after Christmas, most preachers moan and groan and duck for cover—avoiding the stoning of Stephen, side-stepping the slaughter of the innocents. “Let’s just sing carols and not read these bloody tales, lest we ‘spoil Christmas.’”
But truth be told, even if the church’s calendar didn’t shove these horror stories in our faces….life itself and the daily news can easily ‘spoil Christmas’ for us.
132 Pakistani school children senselessly slaughtered this past Tuesday, two years (almost to the day) after the horrific school shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut!
Every Advent, for as long as I can remember, something happens that threatens to ‘spoil Christmas’ for us. At the same time, though, such tragedies make us hanker for Christmas all the more.
Because even these heart-stopping brutalities remind us what was at stake for God to come among us in the baby born in Bethlehem’s manger.
Into this sorry old world where children have always been at risk, God came among us as a child….the one Infant who got away from cruel old King Herod….and grew to become a man who wrapped his arms around children, blessed them, and set them in the midst of his closest followers—pointing to these little ones as paragons par excellence of his peculiar kind of Kingdom.
Jesus our Lord came among us not to have a joyride or a picnic, here on earth--but to redeem us, to restore fallen humanity, and to renew the whole, groaning creation.
Nothing, nothing that happens to us, nothing that makes us shudder when we watch the news on TV….nothing and no one is outside of the scope of God’s saving intervention in this fallen world.
That is a wonderfully appropriate thing for us to remember today as we meet to care for this beloved school where children are treasured, where little ones are nurtured, in the name of him who came among us as a little child and who calls us to recognize in our youngsters, signs of his kingdom right here, right now.
Let us pray: Eternal God, whose Advent we celebrate with joy and thanksgiving, bless all schools, and especially Oak Grove Lutheran School, that they may be lively places for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom. Grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth. Open our eyes to behold in the faces of our children the image of your dear Son, who took on human flesh to make us and the whole creation new. Bless our deliberations today so that everything we think and say and do will give you glory and reflect your care for all children. In Jesus’ name. Amen.