By The Washington Post Company
The Christmas story is one of warmth and light, but there’s a darker chapter that isn’t so often retold. Not long after the birth of Jesus, the Roman-installed king of Israel, Herod, got word that a future king had been born in Bethlehem. Herod, insecure and ever fearful, had all the male children in Bethlehem under 2 years of age killed. But Jesus’s family, forewarned, had already fled into Egypt.
Of the four Gospels, this story of the “slaughter of the innocents” is told only in Matthew, and there isn’t much historical evidence for it other than Herod’s established record of murders and atrocities committed against those whom he saw as threats to his throne. Scholars say that if it did occur, it was not a major event: Bethlehem was a little town, as the carol says, and the number of children killed would have been accordingly small – about 20 or so.
Of all the things that can befall us, this is probably the worst: the loss of a child.
Religious faith has been a persistent reality in most societies since their earliest days. … (I)t remains astonishingly resilient, as does the need to perceive some order and justice and source of consolation in the world …
The people in Newtown, Conn. , are in one of those times when the true meaning of the Christmas holiday is felt and expressed by all people of the community, regardless of faith, wealth or social standing. It is a time not only for joy to the world but also for hope that there is truth in the words found further on in the Book of Matthew: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”