Christmas, Day 4 (Childermas)

December 28 is Childermas, or Holy Innocents’ Day, when the church commemorates the slaughter of young male children in Bethlehem by the order of Herod the Great, attempting to quash the threat of a rival king. This, too, is part of the Christmas story. The Gospel account of the “massacre of the innocents” quotes Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, / Rachel weeping for her children; / she refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt. 2:18).

LOOK: Saltcellars by Rebekah Pryor

Pryor, Rebekah_Saltcellars
Rebekah Pryor, Saltcellars, 2017. Table salt, dimensions variable.

This ensemble of delicate containers made entirely of salt “is a motif of maternal lament,” says Australian artist Rebekah Pryor. “My Saltcellars functions to preserve and offer a taste of both the bitterness of maternal lament and the wisdom of love that enables the mother to survive it.”

LISTEN: “Mothers and Shepherds” by Brittney Spencer, Emil Sydhage, Gilbert Nanlohy, and Connor Wheaton, 2018 | Released as a single by Common Hymnal (feat. Brittney Spencer), 2019 | CCLI #7141753

Come now and hear the sound
Of mothers gathered round
Tears are streaming down in Bethlehem
Grieving life that didn’t have to end
Asking God to justify the pain
Never knowing He would feel the same
The powerful oppress the prophecy
But shepherds passing through have found a King

Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

Rumor has it that a child is born
And it’s said that we will call him Lord
Heaven’s angels came to let us know
That our freedom rests upon His throne
So we’ve traveled from across this land
Seeking out the new and precious Lamb
The One who came and made time stand still
When heaven opened up at God’s own will

Hallelujah
Glory in the highest
King Messiah
Savior of the world

Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

Now forever we will sing the song
Of the One who was and is to come
All creation joins in harmony
In declaring He is perfectly

Holy, holy
Merciful and mighty
God has sent
The Savior of the world

Hallelujah
Glory in the highest
King Messiah
Savior of the world

Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh
Savior of the world
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh
Savior of the world

Songwriter Brittney Spencer describes “Mothers and Shepherds” as “a Christmas song that forces hope, disaster, and pursuit to meet on a painful yet dauntingly beautiful path that exposes how much we’ve always needed a savior.” Find the chords here.

Cold Dark Night (Artful Devotion)

Flight to Egypt by Oscar Rabin
Oscar Rabin (Russian, 1928–2018), Flight into Egypt, 1977. Oil on canvas, 49 × 70 cm.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

—Matthew 2:13–18

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SONG: “Cold Dark Night” by Sam Phillips, originally released on her Cold Dark Night EP (2009) and re-released on the new full-length album Cold Dark Nights (2019)

 

When was he born? When was he born?
When was he born? On a cold dark night.

The king said, “Kill every baby boy that you can find.
There’s been too much talk about a new king born,
And this throne is mine.”

When was he born? When was he born?
When was he born? On a cold dark night.

He wasn’t born to be a king. He wasn’t born to fight.
He knew this world can get so dark that when you can
You’ve got to turn on the light.

When was he born? When was he born?
When was he born? On a cold dark night.

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A Russian painter and activist, Oscar Rabin was one of the founders of the Soviet Nonconformist Art movement. After being stripped of his citizenship in 1978 for political dissidence, he emigrated to Paris, where he lived until his death last year at age ninety. He is the subject of the feature-length documentaries Oscar (2018) and, with his wife and fellow artist Valentina Kropivnitskaya, In Search of a Lost Paradise (2015).


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the First Sunday after Christmas Day, cycle A, click here.