December 23rd: Saint Juthwara
Even in death you have a voice
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”
After the birth of Christ, Herod was interested in finding this newborn ”King of the Jews.” But Herod’s designs were not good. Competition was not something he accepted. His plan was to cut off the competition before it had a chance to rise. So, as Joseph and Mary fled with the newborn King, Herod killed all the male children in Bethlehem, and as the prophet Jeremiah had declared centuries earlier, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning…” Even when things are at their worst, a prophetic voice rises up from the ashes of our destruction. When you are at your weakest, when you have lost everything, in the death of all your dreams, and even if you should lose your life – a prophetic voice rises from the struggle and loss. The devout follower of Christ is like incense: most fragrant in heat and fire and ash. Missional ways are magnified in struggle.
December 23rd is Saint Juthwara’s Day. Saint Juthwara was a 6th century female saint from South Wales (or Dorset). She is among a group of saints called Cephalophores from the early medieval times. Falsely accused by her step-mother of becoming pregnant, her brother killed her in anger. He chopped off her head. It is said that a spring appeared at the location her head fell. She picked up her head, and walked to church. Bana, her brother witnessed this, repented, was converted, and later became a monk. (The story is quite strange and worth reading.)
Prayer: Lord, even should I lose everything, I know that Your truth still shines though me. My life of faith is not bound up in the false embrace of success. I acknowledge that unlike the ways of this world, I am voice of strength not because I succeed, not because things go my way, but because like your death, there is life even in my loss. Your witness through me is strong whether I am strong or I am weak, whether I succeed or I fail, and that is success to the greatest degree. Teach me to be faithful even in the times of weakness, and failure.
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