Monday, December 28, 2015


Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the celebration—if that’s what it is—of the slaughter of every male child under two in the region of Bethlehem by Herod’s henchmen.  It’s the part of the Christmas story that usually doesn’t get told.  It is commemorated in the third verse of the Coventry Carol:

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

It’s not a part of Christmas that is clean and tidy. It’s not just.  It’s not peaceful.  It’s horrible.  And it keeps happening.

Many of us were moved by the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian boy, who was washed up dead on the Turkish shore, when his family was fleeing the war, and trying to get to Greece.  No one knows for sure, but probably close to 15,000 Syrian children have been killed in the war.  Tens of thousands of Iraqi children have died in the last 12 years, as they have in Afghanistan.  As they have by the millions because of hunger, poverty and disease across the world.

All of this is human wrought.  And the Herods among us keep multiplying

Tomorrow is the 125th anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, in which 300 some Lakota people were slaughtered by the U. S. Army.  Tomorrow, or someday soon, the Obama administration is going to begin raids to deport the children and their parents who fled violence in Central America.  God knows when the next police shooting of an unarmed African-American will happen, but it will happen too soon.

I am tired of being outraged. And tired of feeling powerless to change. 

But I will not give up.  I will keep working to defy Herod and protect those he would slaughter.  Maybe I can’t do much, but I can at least bear witness.

I wrote this poem several years ago when the father of a young child—who had played Baby Jesus during Christmas—was deported.  It was recently published in RiverSedge magazine. I thank God the family is together again.  And I thank God that God is not going to give up on our sorrow and our struggle.

Baby Jesus’ dad got deported.

He wasn’t old.
He wasn’t wrong.
He wasn’t slick.
He was just there.

He was there riding a train.
He was there grilling a steak.
He was there picking up trash.
He was there, lying next to his wife,
The moonlight soft, the whisper slow.

Baby Jesus’ dad got deported.
We saw him off at the airport.
Forehead blessings. Tears. Promises
Of return.  There isn’t much
You can say to the baby Jesus
When the baby knows it all.
The nation will survive
Without baby Jesus’ dad.
The steak will be a bit overdone.
The reading and math a bit slow.
The nighttime drops of liquid moon
Will float and flee before the dawn.
Baby Jesus’ dad got deported.
He took his shoes off.
He emptied his pockets into the plastic tub.
He raised his arms for the magic wand.
He squeezed himself into the air.
Wave goodbye, baby Jesus.
Wave until your arm grows thorns.

Be justice. Be beauty.  Be sorrow clamoring for hope.


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