The Sunday after Christmas is a Sunday I used to call “Associate Pastor Appreciation Sunday” when I was an associate pastor. It’s a Sunday when many, many associates are preaching. There’s all kinds of beauty on Christmas Eve… a sanctuary full of folks singing carols and lighting candles. There’s music and joy and shiny patent leather shoes. Then, the Sunday after Christmas. It’s kind of a downer. To me, the Sunday after Christmas is that feeling you get when you go into the kitchen after having thrown a big dinner party. Dishes everywhere, piled up. Lots of happy memories lingering in the air, but it’s a drag to face the reality of that clean up. There’s a lot of work to be done. The Revised Common Lectionary (the text assigned for preachers for the week) doesn’t do pastors any favors, either (or does it?). The text for this morning is a text that has been called throughout the centuries “The Slaughter of the Innocents.” Now there’s a joy-filled topic that will inspire folks to come to church! It’s a text about King Herod and how he was looking for the baby Jesus so he could kill him. In so doing, he ordered baby boys under the age of two be killed. All of them. It’s a brutal text… no glitter or candles or pretty wrapped packages here, just a story about a family in danger, running for their lives, and a cruel dictator taking innocent lives. And as I said in my sermon, it’s rather startling and unsettling that we should have to move away from the glow of candlelight so quickly. I’d rather sit there a little longer, sing a few more carols, enjoy the moment. Why do I have to confront the cold reality of the harsh world in which we live? Don’t we have to face that enough when we check twitter and CNN and the New York Times? Didn’t I just see it in the face of a cold and hungry looking man who was holding up a paper sign that said “God Bless You?”
In thinking about it a little bit, though, it seems to me that this story does have something to offer me and my people. It’s the truth that God is here, among us, not just when things are easy, but (especially) when they are hard. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.