Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fourth Day of Christmas: The Holy Innocents



Coventry Carol

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.

O sisters too, How may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling,
For whom we do sing,
By by, lully lullay? 

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.

Herod, the King, In his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might,
In his own sight,
All young children to slay. 

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.

That woe is me, Poor child for thee!
And ever morn and day,
For thy parting
Nor say nor sing
By by, lully lullay!

The Boxing Day sales are over  and life returns to "normal" and there seems  to be little to do but wait for the festivities of the New Year. However on this day the Church recalls the feast of the Holy Innocents

In the Coventry Carol. a text dating from the 16th century a mother laments the the fate of her child according to the massacre of the first born in the second chapter of Matthew's Gospel.

Today we remember that the context of the Christmas story is one of the exploitation of the vulnerable by State power. We have changed little from the bystanders of Herod's massacre as we watch reports from Syria detailing the impact of the war on children and read the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The children of Peshawar.as well as those caught up in the Srebrenica massacre,and the child victims of the Rwanda genocide are only a few of the tragic litany of violence in our own day.

Yet in the midst of all this ancient and contemporary horror a cry goes out from our Christmas celebrations that "God is with Us'. For the one who comes among us as a vulnerable child has broken the cycle of human violence in the image of a man on a  cross.
Mothers will weep for the lost children of our history and fathers will grieve with heavy hearts. But our belief is that the killing, the abuse, the exploitation and neglect of children is a political situation we can change.
This is also a religious moment when we recognize that God is there in the midst of suffering, bleeding, crying and abandoned because the cycle of violence has been broken by the prince of peace.

I chose the Joan Baez version of the Coventry Carol rather than a Church Choir as a reminder of the call to public protest against war and the exploitation of the poor on this day. Children are still the most deeply affected by wars around the globe - 65% of Afghans are under the age of 18. 90% of those killed in wars are children. On this day I hold in sacred memory and social solidarity  those who had their childhood taken from them in Institutional Care 



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