Life Out of Death: The Incarnation Comes in the Context of Genocide

Life Out of Death: The Incarnation Comes in the Context of Genocide

In December, Christians delight in lifting from the gospels the most iconic moments of the Christmas story: the angelic visits, shepherds flooded in glory-light, Mary and Joseph silhouetted beside a manger. By contrast, we often glide over one particularly dark part of the narrative: the tragedy of slain baby boys in Bethlehem that followed the birth of Jesus.

The slaughter of innocent babies and toddlers is a theme we’d rather not think about—especially at Christmas time. However, loss, death, and darkness are essential parts of the nativity story and serve to underscore the broader picture of Christ’s coming to save a broken world. The darling of all holidays, celebrated with abandon by the church and retailers alike, commemorates a story that happened in the context of genocide, and this somber knowledge prepares our hearts to move beyond the manger to the cross.

Red Letter Christians

It’s a great gift to be teaming up today with Red Letter Christians in an invitation to reflect on this often overlooked passage of Scripture.  Perhaps the early darkness of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is the ideal setting in which to pause from our seasonal hoopla, and remember Holy Innocents Day, December 28th, the space in the church calendar in which, historically, believers entered into a moment of mourning for these lost children, and reflected on their theological significance to the larger Christmas story.

Thanks for joining me at Red Letter Christians today, where readers are encouraged to take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture.


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27 thoughts on “Life Out of Death: The Incarnation Comes in the Context of Genocide”

  1. I had never heard of Holy Innocents Day. Thank you for shedding light on a seldom thought about aspect of the Christmas story.


  2. Ah, this is all so unsettling, Michele … this and so many passages in God’s Word. These are the moments when I have to release my questions, doubts, and confusion to the One who is all wise and all loving.

    And appreciate that He grieves with us.


  3. You are right, we do just read through that part of the story real fast without letting it touch us. I have to admit, I never heard of Holy Innocents Day. Thank you for sharing this!


  4. It’s heartbreaking and tragic that we live in a world where things like this happen daily. Even after all this time we still haven’t learned. It’s a miracle that Jesus has any patience with us at all.


    1. It’s good for us to see that heartbreak and tragedy have been around for as long as there have been people on this planet. I think we have a tendency to “discount” the suffering of those in the past, thinking maybe they didn’t love their children as much as we do.
      And I’m grateful for the hopeful future we have in Christ.


  5. I know I do tend to reflect more on the lighthearted scriptures. I began reading only Jesus’ words and there is some harsh truths to what he said when he was walking this earth. I hesitated to keep reading, but had to reflect and decide how to take the context. It is more fun to read a happy story, but as you say, there has always been heartbreak and tragedy; especially throughout the Old Testament. I happened to turn to a show on the TV the past week, and it was the part where they were riding in to plunder the towns with the male babies. At first, I thought how could they just come in and slaughter, but I soon caught up with the context of the movie. It was the part about Herod demanding all males at a certain age be killed. It was, as you say, a reminder of the sad along with the joy. Have a great 2019 ahead. Happy New Year.


    1. Yes, Jesus did not “play nice,” particularly when he was dealing with hypocrisy.
      I didn’t realize there was a dramatic retelling of that part of Jesus’ life story. It must have been hard to watch, and I’m surprised the producers stayed true to the biblical narrative.
      Happy 2019, Peabea!


  6. It’s easy to skip over this part of the story but I agree, it’s included in the Bible for a reason and it’s important to remember. I appreciate the insights you draw out of it.


  7. Though I had never heard of Holy Innocents Day, my heart is ready to pause and remember those precious babes. Like another commentor said, it is unsettling to think about this. When we turn our confusion over to our LORD and Savior, we do so, not in blind faith, but with faith that His ways are higher than our ways.


  8. Michele, thanks for enlightening me on this topic. It’s a somber reminder that light shines brightest because of the darkness, and ultimately that it’s that same baby boy who overcame the darkness for all of us.
    I didn’t find a place to leave a comment over on Red Letter Christians but I wanted to be sure you knew how much I appreciated this piece.
    New Year blessings to you, dear friend.
    Marva | SunSparkleShine


  9. We do well to remember this and in our celebrations remember that Jesus came to die, but through His death and resurrection He conquered the power of the evil one and made a way for us to be forever with Him. Blessings to you, Michele! I hope you’ve had a wonderful season of celebration with your family. I’m your neighbor at #LMMLinkup!


  10. That passage always grabs me by the throat. To realize these were moms like me who had their babies ripped from their arms and slaughtered. It’s too easy to read over it quickly and push it to the back of our minds. Thanks for slowing us down. I look forward to reading the rest of your post.


  11. You bring up a very good point: the slain generation of baby boys before Jesus’ birth is a part of the story that we either speak of quickly in the story or not at all. I struggle to teach my own children a lot of the stories from the bible because they can be very violent when you think about it. The story of our savior’s birth is one of triumph but hatred fueled a genocide of innocent children. Thank you for linking up with #OMHGWW and sharing this with us.


    1. Hi, Alice!
      It’s great that you are working hard to share the entirety of Scripture with your kids. The Spirit will guide you in knowing what to share and when they are ready to hear it.
      It is sad, though, how many adults depend on Hallmark specials and animated Christmas shows for their understanding of the entire story of Jesus’s life. We can do so much better than that!


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