Just three days ago we celebrated the Birth of Christ with hoopla and gifts and Angel choirs.
Yet the very next day, we marked the death of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen.
And today we remember the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, those victims of Herod's fears and ambition.
It seems strange to mix birth and death, but from a human point of view, the two are inextricably mixed. The moment we are conceived, we are a moment closer to death.
Life and death are simply part of the circle of being.
From a Christian perspective, life and death are also mingled. Even among those gifts the Magi brought is a reminder of death: the myrrh, the sacred ointment used among other things for anointing the dead and for burning at funerals.
And that Holy Child was born to die for us all.
But the Christian message is that though we are in that cycle of life and death - a cycle in which even the innocent suffer - we are called to eternal life. The eternal life now enjoyed by Stephen and those Holy Innocents.
That was the gift that the Child brought to us - far outstripping the gifs of the Magi, and which imparts a joy that outweighs even the tragic sorrow of all those innocent lives lost.
"The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why." – GKC - "On Christmas," Generally Speaking
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