This Christmas looms like few others in recent times.
Some things have not changed—last-minute shopping, family travel, cards, trees, and carols. But this Advent season was punctured last Friday by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The world received the news with horror. A young man, heavily-armed, randomly killed twenty first-grade children and six adults working at the school. Senseless. Stunning. Evil.
We’ve all felt the grief; a grief accentuated by the innocence of the victims and the season of the year.
Yet, this Christmas resembles the first Christmas more than we might imagine.
Herod, the delusional and neurotic King of Judea, held court a mere six miles from Bethlehem. In a fit of rage and an effort to kill the newborn Christ, he “sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under.” (Matthew 2:16) Thus, the birth story of Christ involved its own massacre. Scholars estimate that 12-50 children perished in that violent slaughter.
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she refused to be comforted,
Because they were no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15/Matthew 2:18)
Newtown, CT will eventually (perhaps even soon) fade from the emotions and conversations of most folk. A bad day. But we’ll move on. Not so for Jesus. From His vantage point in eternity, where every event is in the constant “now” that shooting is ever before Him. And I imagine He refuses to be comforted.
The violence of the world stands in stark contrast to the way of Jesus—the Prince of Peace. When will we become the People of Peace?
The prophet Isaiah foresaw a day when “they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…. Never again will they learn war.” (2:4) Weapons become farming implements. Violence will cease. Surely we long for such a day ourselves.
Perhaps this year Christmas challenges us to more than a fond nativity moment; cute kids in shepherd costumes. The Savior invites us to weep over violence, pray for peace, and to declare a different way to the world.
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men….” (Luke 2:14)