December 16, 2017
Scripture passages: Matthew 2:13-23, Jeremiah 31:15
Why do so many babies have to die? I remember standing by a grave side as a twenty-four year old minister. I knew little about death, and even less about the death of a baby. I remember that the baby was stillborn. It was the young couple’s first child. The grandparents were grief-stricken. The mother, still weakened by childbirth could barely stand. My senior pastor was out of town, and I was called upon to minister to the family at a simple grave side service. They requested that I read some Scripture and pray. I did. I felt miserably weak, helpless, as if I were no comfort to them whatsoever. Why do so many babies have to die?
And then, it all came home to me. In 2015, our daughter lost a baby at 20 weeks of pregnancy. How could I feel so much love for a little one whom I have never even met? The women of my family have experienced 5 miscarriages of which I know. Mom reminds me of the baby she miscarried before she conceived and bore me. Why do so many babies have to die?
I remember a favorite high school teacher remarking, “The old must die. The young may die.” Then he died of electrocution in a construction accident at age forty-six. I was 17 years old, and this was my first brush with deep grief.
I hear the tragic stories of babies dying from sudden infant death syndrome. Recently, a family member told me of a married colleague who was pregnant, and could not afford to birth and feed a fourth child. Elective abortion was their tragic choice. Millions multiply this awful sin. Why do so many babies have to die?
Herod’s paranoid, delusional mind could not face the possibility of a competitor. He had already killed and assassinated others his psychosis had suspicioned. A newborn king of the Jews? Survival was not an option! His throne would not be challenged! His lineage would not be threatened! No other king of the Jews must be allowed to live!
Mary and Joseph parents secreted Jesus out of Bethlehem. Our Lord’s earliest months and years were spent as an alien in a foreign land, Egypt. He learned to walk as an undocumented alien. Jesus learned to talk as a foreigner with a foreign tongue in a strange land. The earliest sand Mary brushed from Jesus’ feet was Egyptian sand.
In the wake of Jesus’ departure from Bethlehem as an infant, babies died. Herod killed them. Josephus did not record it. Not so much as a blip on the screen of history. Twenty or thirty dead Bethlehem babies is the estimate. Not as many as wars and genocides, but each one left an empty cradle and a grieving mother. It happens time and time again. Why do so many babies have to die?
“Lord Jesus, Lord of life, we are living in a broken, sin-cursed, hurting, grieving world. Speak peace, hope and life into my world, filled with doubt, questions, confusion… and dying babies.”