Slaughter of the Innocents
I·t was a cold Sunday in January and my partner and I were attending a little Lutheran Church near the house. (Nowadays it has now been converted into an Arts Center for Children.) Although I had been raised Baptist, I certainly felt no loyalty to the haters. As an artsy Queer™ myself, I always had soft spot for the liturgy of the Lutherans — particularly their Catholic-lite mass-ish liturgy and standard revolving calendar of seasons, readings, and vestments. If one can find a Lutheran Church with a talented organist, it is a pleasant experience for music lovers. I liked that particular church because they had a fat minister who was welcoming and whose sermons were rather interesting.
The Gospel Reading was announced, an excerpt from Matthew, Chapter 2, and an older lay-person took to the lectern to read:
“When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old or under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” — The Bible, Matthew 2:16–18
When she finished, in the custom of the Lutherans, she said, “The Gospel of the Lord.”
Responsively, the congregation said, “Thanks be to God!”
The look on the usually jolly minister’s face was anything but as he remained silent for the response.
There is an odd little song, Coventry Carol, usually sung a cappella around Christmastime. The text is based in the same scripture above, part of a lost 15th Century mystery play. It is often used as an example in Music Theory classes since it ends with a well-known “Picardy cadence.”