Today my Shetland Sheepdog, Duncan, became 11 years old. I told him it was his birthday, but I don't think he understood me. Today is also the day the church remembers the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. They are the little children ordered to be killed by Herod, as recorded in Matthew 2. I'm not suggesting that there's link between my dog's birthday and the mass murder meant to wipe out the Messiah. It's merely a matter of happenstance. I always remember that Duncan was born on the day of the Holy Innocents.
Happenstance. That can be a cruel word. Blind, stupid, bad luck. What else do we say to parents whose children have been killed--by whatever means? At the current posting on the website Journey with Jesus, we read a quote from Stanley Hauerwas: "Perhaps no event in the gospel more determinatively challenges the sentimental depiction of Christmas than the death of these children. Jesus is born into a world in which children are killed, and continue to be killed, to protect the power of tyrants."
If we can take hold of this, that Christmas isn't about the idol-worshipping lust for consumer goods--that it's about a genuine hope for the future--then maybe we can build a world in which children (and yes, Shetland Sheepdogs!) can live safely.