There are two things that I see everywhere I look – signs of Christmas, and the latest reports about the Newtown tragedy. In between holiday songs and commercials about sales at Best Buy, the news and radio have been non-stop with coverage on the Connecticut community — from eyewitness accounts to interviews with psychologists and priests to politicians’ gun-control speeches.
I don’t know what to make of so much of it all. But there was one thing in particular that really stuck out to me in the news. I forget who it was and what station she said it on, but one reporter commented on Friday, “It’s especially sad for such a horrific thing to happen during the holiday season, because it’s a time when kids are off from school and families have extra time together.” I’ve been thinking about that comment a lot.
Because on one hand, I agree with her. It is especially sad during a time that we hope is especially happy.
But on the other hand, what we celebrate on Christmas is directly related to and has everything to do with the evil of this world. What happened on Friday is a painful and devastating reminder that this world is broken. It’s messed up. It is filled with murder, greed, massacres, wars, and the kind of brutality that is not even allowed to be portrayed in R-rated movies. And it’s been like that for a very long time.
The father of Rachel Scott, the first victim killed at Columbine, once said this to Congress, “The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used, neither was it the NCA – the National Club Association – the true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in his heart.” Christmas tells us the same sobering truth.
There was another massacre of little children early in the 1st century, when a King in the Roman Empire ordered the murder of all children under 2 years old who lived in and around a town called Bethlehem.
He did this because there were rumors of the promised Messiah being born, and this King wanted to wipe him out immediately.
In other words, this massacre happened because of what we celebrate on Christmas.
So to look at Christmas rightly is to look at it through the lens of horrific tragedies such as Columbine and Newtown and the many that happen around the world that don’t make it to the news. If things were right in the world, if the human heart was not so dark and confused, we would not be celebrating Christmas. There would be no need for a Savior.
The author John Eldridge describes the birth of Jesus as a spiritual D-Day, God’s Great Invasion into a dark and confused world. And the climax of that great rescue mission was the death of Jesus – the most agonizing and shameful death imaginable. It was a death that proved two things: how utterly dark & confused the human heart really is, since it was the religious and political leaders who had him killed…….and how unbelievably loving our God is toward us dark & confused people.
As a result, the closer we get to Christmas, the more I think about those poor families up in Newtown. And the more I think about those poor families, the more I think about Christmas.
The Newtown tragedy is a devastating reminder that this world and this life are unbelievably short and unpredictable. Christmas is a reminder that there is an untouchable hope beyond this world and beyond this life.
The Newtown tragedy reminds us that we are surrounded by people who are suffering extreme heartache and loss. Christmas is a reminder that if we call ourselves followers of Jesus, then we will step into the heartache and loss of others to love on them in real, tangible ways.
The Newtown tragedy shows us that something was very wrong in the heart of Adam Lanza. That is obvious. Christmas is a reminder that something has gone wrong in all our hearts, even if it’s not as obvious.
So I pray that all of us don’t get so caught up in Christmas that we forget how connected it is to dark times such as this.
“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.” – John 1:5