This past Sunday we remembered the death of the innocents.
It's a hard thing to wrap your heart and mind around the death of all the little ones in the midst of celebrating Jesus' birth. And apparently, this is the first time that I have not been on vacation the first Sunday after Christmas, so while we did have a service with lessons and carols, the final lesson was the appointed gospel text for the day...and we all heard about the slaughter of babies in Bethlehem.
So hard to hear and often hard to comprehend. As I sat with that text through Christmas Day, I was thinking about my trip to El Salvador in seminary. One of our visits was to the village of El Mozote, where the population was massacred December 11th and 12th in 1981.
What remains in my mind is the church in El Mozote.
As you walk around the side of the church, you enter the Garden of the Innocents.
So I shared the story of this place...of people, and especially the children, who were killed during this civil war.
I shared that on the side of the church, there are images of children, and below those images are the names of the children and their ages.
I think part of who we are as church, is to hear these passages and remember that we do not live in a perfect world. And that part of who we are is to lift up, love and care for the innocents in our families, communities and the world.
Then I handed out little boys and girls, cut out of construction paper...each person in worship was invited to put the name or names of children in their family or community whom they love and care for. As people were coming up with names, one woman said, I have an announcement...(similar to a children's sermon, once people are involved, who knows what may happen....) she shared that her grandson and his wife shared the good news at Christmas that they were expecting! It's the first great grandchild! She put baby on one of her cut-outs :)
Then we cradled the 'children' in our hands and prayed for them, for their health, their growth, their innocence, their lives.
The service was also an opportunity for us, as congregation and pastor, to still see and experience God at work in the ministry and mission that happens through us every day.
Good things, just like God, in unexpected places.