Remembering the 1918 Armistice

How can we find hope in the face of miserable slaughter? A reflection from BRF's New Daylight Bible reading notes. 

Darkness descends

At the end of August 2017 I went to France with my two youngest children, touring the museums and battlefields of World War I. One particularly poignant memorial is a large statue of a dragon, standing at the top of a hill, looking across only about half a mile to Mametz Wood. It marks the spot where the 38th (Welsh) division set off to take Mametz Wood on 7 July 1916 and suffered heavy losses. The wood was cleared of enemies by 14 July but at a cost of over 4,000 casualties. 

Even 100 years on, to stand where so many people fought and suffered is a very powerful experience.

We stood where thousands of people had died just to gain a few hundred yards of land.
We stood on green grass where once there had been thick mud.
We wondered at the immensity of the sacrifice that was made.

Today’s passage reading from BRF’s New Daylight Bible reading notes recalls another, even more horrific massacre.

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
Matthew 2:16-18 (NRSV)

The story of Herod’s vicious slaughter of babies and young children is brutal and shocking. This short, stark chapter in the life of Christ, coming so soon after choirs of angels and rejoicing, is a bleak reminder that Jesus came into a world of brokenness and sin. 

Yet the very fact of his birth is the sign of hope that had been sought for all the ages – a breaking-in of light and love to the darkness of evil and despair.

The light that will not be put out

As we stand with the peoples of many nations this week and remember the end of a fearful conflict that threatened to engulf the world, we lament with Rachel at the loss of life and ponder with Mary the arrival of the light. 

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them
‘For the Fallen’, Robert Laurence Binyon, 1914

Based on Sally Welch's reflection in New Daylight, Sunday 11 November 2018