Holy Innocents

Today, December 28th, many followers of Jesus will pause to commemorate “Holy Innocents”, a day of remembrance for the children killed by King Herod (Matthew 2:16-18) in a bid to maintain his grip on power. Somewhat of an obscure observance, Holy Innocents gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect, remembering not only the baby boys of Bethlehem, but also the millions down through history who have been murdered by tyrants in the pursuit of power.

Charlotte Rothschild was born in Berlin and used to live down the street from us.  And although she and her family left the neighborhood before we were born, she, along with many others, has become a stumbling stone to those of us who live here now…literally.

Charlotte and her family joined the six million European Jews murdered during World War II. And lest we should forget Charlotte, stumbling stones have been placed along our daily paths.

Since 1996, artist Gunter Demnig has done his best to make sure we never forget. Carefully crafting with hammer and chisel his cobbles of brass, he then sets these “stolperstein” or “stumbling stones” into pavement along the sidewalks of Berlin and outside front doors throughout Europe. They mark the homes of thousands of the millions murdered by the Nazis. These brass stumbling stones are engraved with a person’s name, date of birth, date of deportation, and place of death, which is often the name of a concentration camp. The word, “ERMORDET” – murdered – is common, serving as a poignant reminder of this community’s past.

Artist Gunter Demnig was also born in Berlin. His father served in the army of the Third Reich. Gunter says “I don’t know, sometimes I try not to think about what my father could have been part of.” But all who live here in Deutschland (Germany) know Gunter’s response to this dark part of German history. He has created reminders, “Stolpersteine” stumbling stones cast in bronze, and although the story they tell is short, it’s a story we must never forget.

So today we remember the children killed by Herod. We remember Charlotte and the millions murdered by Nazis . We also remember those in places like Burma, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, who today, will die at the hand of a tyrant.

Father, help us find ways to be advocates for those whose voices are silenced.

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