Do you know about the incident in scripture commonly called the “slaughter of the innocents”? It happened when Jesus was a small baby and in fact, he was the innocent one targeted for the slaughter. He escaped just in time because his father Joseph was given a dream by an angel telling him to take the baby and Mary and go to Egypt.
Herod, the Judean ruler, heard from some traveling wise men that the king of the Jews had been born. A threat to his power, he plotted to kill the child after the wise men found him. But they left the country secretly and did not reveal the location of the baby.
“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi.” (Matthew 2:16)
Can you imagine all of these innocent little boys – a whole generation, being mercilessly killed at the whim of a tyrant? Really, they were the very first martyrs in the New Testament. They died for the cause of Christ even though neither they nor their parents knew it at the time. Still, I bet they have a martyr’s reward!
As we meditate upon the joy of the Christmas season we would do well to remember these innocents. Why? Because it’s a reminder that the Father’s gift of his son, freely given to us, cost some a great deal. Let our remembering help us live as if we realize its worth.