This is the world that the vulnerable Christ-child was born into. A world in which innocents frequently pay the price for the warped agendas of the vain, the ambitious, the crazed. A world in which three teenage migrants can figure among the 27 bodies in the English Channel when the flimsiest of vessels collapses on the raging waters, and in which the whole nation grieved for six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. The tale of Herod the Great and his reign of terror should not be banished in our hearts and minds to some distant bygone age, locked away in some safe time pocket where it cannot harm or challenge us. We try to soften its blows with the chilling beauty of the Coventry Carol’s minor chords – ’this poor youngling for whom we do sing’ – but this painful reality of the suffering and death of little ones is more like some Jungian universal archetype that comes back to haunt us. Again and again.
And at its root lies injustice. Which is why the grit in the oyster of the Christmas story is a constant reminder to us: to combat the consequences of the worst of human excesses and, where we can, open up our minds, our wallets, our homes … for in welcoming the suffering innocents and trying to assuage their pain, we also let in the one who came to make God fully known to us.