Sunday, December 16, 2012

Death and Life and Christmas

The tragic and senseless killing in Connecticut has left the world stunned and devastated. How can things like this happen? How could anyone be so evil? Why can't we stop atrocities like this from happening?

And yet the clock keeps ticking and our advent calendar steadily approaches Christmas. I feel a bit schizophrenic with my mood alternating rapidly between happiness and horror. One moment I am catching a glimpse of holiday lights or humming a beloved Bing Crosby tune, and the next I am entranced by a reporter on Fox News giving details about the shooting victims. I am horrified, and yet I cannot stop watching...

How can happiness and horror coexist?

I keep thinking that things like this should not happen at Christmas.

But, why? They happen all the time. And Christmas does not promise insulation from the world. We have falsely believed that the days leading up to December 25th should be idyllic, a time of escape. It is our fantasy that life should be good and families get along and the perfect gift is waiting under the tree.

But these are man-made notions. The true Christmas story was actually a far cry from these modern ideals.

In Luke's gospel, evil and hope were colliding. Jesus was born in a time of political turmoil. While we traditionally focus on the peaceful and positive aspects of the story - like shepherds and angels - we must also consider the character of King Herod. This was a ruler who had no problem obliterating the lives of others for his own glorification and gain. Historic records tell us Herod was insanely jealous and brutal - even having his own sons killed to prevent any threat to his political reign.

When the King learned of the birth of Jesus - and the divine promise related to this infant - he immediately ordered the slaughtering of the innocents to ensure that his own reign would go on. He was a desperate king and a horrible man, trying to cling to his earthly powers and showing no regard for the lives of others.

From my study of the gospels, I know that Jesus did not come into an idyllic world. He brought life and hope, yes, but he came into a world of loss, pain, suffering. He was rejected, scorned, attacked, and spat upon. The people who at first followed him, then nailed him to a cross, where he was crucified, in a slow and excruciating public death.

The gospel is a paradox. Jesus came to Earth to die. He died to bring hope and to demonstrate that God can and will conquer Evil.

I am sad today - and I will continue to be devastated every time I read or hear another report from Connecticut. And, I should be. The sorrow of our world must not escape us. It should press heavily upon our hearts. We need God today more than ever. Our world is not getting better. Humans need redemption. We need a Savior even more than new laws, safer schools, or better governmental leaders.

In the midst of this sadness, I can and will celebrate Christmas - not just as a day of false hope or denial - but as a reminder that truth and light and hope continue to shine even in the midst of terrible and unrelenting darkness.

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