YET AGAIN OUR NATION MOURNS the senseless slaughter of innocents. The news from Sandy Hook Elementary School hits us particularly hard since it comes as we are singing Christmas carols, hanging festive ornaments, baking cookies, and wrapping presents, knowing that the seasonal preparations of families in Newtown, Connecticut have been interrupted by the horrific and unexpected task of funeral preparations. Festive joy mingles with cries of anguish.
Just like the first Christmas.
For as in Newtown, Connecticut, so in Bethlehem—
“. . . there a voice is heard,
lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
and would not be comforted,
because they are not.” (Matthew 2:18, KJV)
Though you won’t see displays of the nativity slaughter depicted with plastic figurines on lawns, or acted out on stages by children dressed in First Century costumes, the first Christmas was also scarred by the killing of innocents.
Of the gospel writers, Matthew alone records the incident. He records the visit of the Magi to the court of Herod, King of Judea; of their being received by this ambitious madman, who murdered his wife and killed two of his sons; of Herod’s feigned interest in worshipping the newborn king; and of his subsequent order to kill all the male children two-years-of-age and under to thwart the perceived threat of the Christ child.
Matthew also records the inconsolable weeping of the mothers of the slaughtered children, a mournful sound that echoes in the hallways of Sandy Hook Elementary School; parents weeping for their children, refusing to be comforted, for their children are no more.
Great joy and bitter grief, both are inherent in the Christmas story. For only when we hear the angelic announcement in the heavens mixed with the mournful sobs on earth can we understand the true meaning of Christmas. It was no accident that God, a father, placed his infant son — his very human son — in a region ruled by an infamous murderer. For the light shines brightest where the world is darkest.
This Christmas, in the year of our Lord 2012, as we mourn the unspeakable loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary School, every colored light that is hung burns a little bit brighter, every song that is sung sounds a little bit sweeter, and every gesture of goodwill and love serves notice to all those who bring evil and pain into our world, you will not win. Hope lives in us still.