Epiphany 2021

The Slaughter of the Innocents

Epiphany 2021


Matthew 2:1-18


Only Matthew recounts the story of the Magi who come from the East to honor the newborn King of the Jews.  Possibly guided by a heavenly convergence of Jupiter and Saturn, much like the one we recently witnessed in our own winter solstice sky.


They came to pay homage, to render a form of respect and reverence for this new ruler.  They expected him to be born in Jerusalem, since, the capital city is where rulers tend to live.  They also expected King Herod the Great, to know about the child.  But Herod did not know.


Herod was well known for a number of things.  He was an astute political operative, managing not to be executed for treason after supporting Mark Antony’s rebellion against Octavius (later Caesar Augustus).  He was a builder, and was responsible for the most elaborate structures ever built in Israel including the palace fortress at Masada.  And Herod was ruthless, demanding absolute loyalty, and killing his own wife and son out of fear they opposed him.


So, when Herod heard there was a potential competitor for his throne, however small and vulnerable, he grew enraged.   As the scripture aptly puts it: “Herod trembled…and all Jerusalem with him.”  You see, all Jerusalem knew what Herod was capable of when he feared losing power.  It meant violence.  It meant death.  It meant turmoil and chaos.


When the magi failed to return and tell him the whereabouts of the new king, he sent armies to slay every male child under 2 years of age!  Jerusalem’s trembling was justified.


Yesterday, on Epiphany, the day we remember this portion of the Christmas story, we witnessed it come to life, right here in our own land.  Our President–astutely capable of manipulating the populace with his Twitter rants, deftly able to maneuver the political realities of his party, intent on building magnificent structures to magnify his name, and ruthlessly demanding loyalty from his minions–revealed what he was capable of out of fear of losing his power.  He was willing to bring down the very institutions of our democracy.  Willing to incite violence and chaos that so far has led to 4 deaths, one of them within the very halls of Congress.  We witnessed what we believed unthinkable before yesterday.  All because a ruler in power was unable and/or unwilling to accept legitimate electoral defeat.


I hope that yesterday was indeed for America an “Epiphany,” a showing, a revealing of the true nature of this president and his desires.  And I pray that the Christ, who taught that leadership and authority is not about domination and personal ambition but about service to others in the interest of the common good, will lead us into a better future.