Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

[December 28, 2006]

It has always caused me to wonder, even troubled me, why we Lutherans observe the commemoration of the Holy Innocents. If we hold to the doctrine of original sin and take seriously that we are conceived and born in sin, that our only hope is in Christ, then how is it that these boys two years and under who were murdered by Herod were “innocent”?

First of all, it is a tragedy what happened. In his insane anger and paranoia Herod caused untold grief to the parents of these boys. But as we have seen so many times throughout history, what God in His Word says about bearing the cross, enduring persecution, suffering on account of Christ, is part and parcel to being a Christian.

So what was it about these boys that they have been designated as the “holy innocents”? Well they were innocent to the degree that they certainly did not deserve to be murdered, as no one deserves this. But they most certainly were not innocent in terms of their standing before God. They were sinners just like every other person born other than Christ. So do we just give them an exemption? No, they are no different from us. In fact, we too are declared to be “holy” and “innocent” before God also. How that is is through Baptism. God is the one who declares us holy and innocent before Him. Those toddler and infant boys that were murdered by Herod could not be kept out of heaven because they were victims of another’s rage. They had been circumcised just as we in the Church today are Baptized. Circumcision was the rite God had given to His Old Testament people as the sign of His covenant to them.

Those boys met an untimely death, but were welcomed into heaven sooner than their parents had expected. When we are met with grief like this, our only comfort is in God Himself and His salvation through Christ. That is why we are Baptized, because we know it He who is saving us, declaring us holy, making us truly innocent, His children forever.

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