Monday, December 29, 2014

Naked before the Throne

The Holy Innocents (28 December)
by Malcolm Guite
We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,
Or cosy in a crib beside the font,
But he is with a million displaced people
On the long road of weariness and want.
For even as we sing our final carol
His family is up and on that road,
Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel,
Glancing behind and shouldering their load.
Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower
Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,
The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,
And death squads spread their curse across the world.
But every Herod dies, and comes alone
To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.*

There they are, shuffling their dusty feet—refugees in a long line. Their eyes are wide—tired, scared. Every century, every country has experienced these streams of displaced persons. It is not just a thing that happened "way back when," but is happening around the world even as you read these words. On this day, we remember the Holy Family's flight to Egypt and the death of the innocents left in Judea. 

We recall Herod's vicious, visceral actions to save his tiny kingdom, a kingdom he could not take with him beyond the grave. Every Saddam Hussein, Mao Tse-tung, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, and  Vladimir Lenin grasp at their kingdoms the same way, not caring whose life it costs to keep their power. Yet every dictator, president, king, senator, and CEO will die one day. Their wealth, power, and 'stuff' will remain and crumble to pieces as they turn to dust in the grave. Their kingdoms and empires will not save them from death, nor the judgement seat. No one else can die for them—and as they stand bare before the throne of God, they will find they are just as much in need of a Saviour as everyone else... But by then it will be too late.

As we remember the Holy Innocents—and the unholy tyrant who desolated "Rachel's children"—let us bear in mind that one day we, too, will die alone to stand stark before God's throne... The refugee who fled to Egypt, returned to Galilee, walked the streets of Jerusalem, died, and rose again is the only one Who can cover our shame and turn it to glory; Who can remove our sin from us "as far as the East is from the West." Let us turn to Him before, like Herod, it is too late.

*Reprinted with the author's gracious permission. If you have not read Malcolm Guite's blog or books, you should do so here. If you click the poem's title, you can hear Malcolm read the sonnet himself—it is beautiful.

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