The Sandy Hook evil seems unimaginable. It numbs or inflames our senses. Sandy Hook pushes the limits of human depravity or brokenness. It lies so far beyond normal human sinfulness and failure that it shocks us. Yet, the deep grief we all feel reminds us that humanity rejects such violence and longs for something better. As we address the tragedy, let us remind children that we everyone is hurting and that our communities will work hard to keep them safe.
The New Testament never denies the reality of evil in the world. Evil springs largely from our human choices. Made in the image of God, we hold the freedom to hold or to harm. At times we humans make a mess of this world. God does not abandon us to our own devices and decisions. John 1:5 introduces Christmas saying “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it”.
How will God’s Light shine this world? God formulates a risky plan. We call it Christmas. The Creator comes to us a baby. God Almighty keeps warm sleeping on Mary’s belly. The One who spoke the stars into space is wrapped in borrowed baby blankets and placed in a feedbox cradle. Jesus, God’s Salvation takes nourishment from Mary. Joseph perhaps wise to an evil king hears the angel’s voice in his dreams. Joseph preserves the Prince of peace from Herod’s murderous plot; even while Rachel weeps for her lost children. The Creator come as child is a risky way to save the world.
God’s Christmas plan addresses evil in this world. The Light of the world vulnerably comes to us. In dark times many offer pseudo-solutions. Some will build barriers, placing the light safely under the protective warmth of a good stout basket. Some will retreat and let the cold wind extinguish their candle. Some crippled by fear will lash out setting fires with tongue, posts, and even actions. The Light and love of Jesus empowers us sending us forward saying “You are the Light of the world… let your light shine” (Matthew 5; 16). Will you step out into the night and lift your candle aloft? Will you stand in silent mourning offering light to those closer to grief? Will you reach out to strangers living in cloudy darkness and share Christ’s love by generous acts? Will you hold aloft your candle and offer light to others?
It is okay to weep. The second beatitude is mourning. We weep for innocence lost. Our tears soften the hard places and wash away the jagged edges of our souls. We wired for fighting or fleeing must learn to stand our ground and acknowledge sadness. Our tears somehow sew healing seeds. We who weep learn to console each other, to take hold of each other’s hands, to prop each other up, to lean into one another embrace. How terrifying to weep alone. We do not have to offer actual words of comfort. When we think: “I do not know what to say”, realize that God may be telling you to simply extend a quiet hand and heart. Step into the darkness, light a candle even with tears.
How will we overcome the darkness? One flickering candle dispels the night. Our world will not be remade by some grand program, quick campaign or emotional revival. The world will be remade when we who know what is good do it. A hand held at a funeral brings hope. A child sent laughing at a joke conquers a thousand midnights. One kiss on the forehead makes the world better. People discovering their soul’s worth foster peace. One forgiving word may release a chain of people locked in bitterly cold unforgiveness. Patient thankfulness may sooth teenage anxiety. Warmly welcoming a stranger grows the neighborhood. Swallowing mean-spirited remarks cultivates peace. Feeding hungry people nourishes Christ. Derailing a line of gossip lets the world hear more clearly. Careful self-examination fosters forgiveness. Forgiveness allows love. Listening reduces judgment. Leaving the judgment to God, frees us to focus work on ourselves. Unclenching fists opens hands. Considering the other side ends many arguments. Love offered to the unlovely only expands love’s domain. Laughing at our mistakes deflates enemies and invites friends. Generosity builds our net worth. Laughter dispels fear. Inviting newcomers to diner grows community. Confessing our failings fosters trust. Justice partnered with sadness plants redemption. Kindness adds to the overall smile-count. Hurt and anger soaked in prayer breeds new life. Faith, hope and love, sewn into others harvests faith, hope and love. Let us live out the Christmas story. The world silently longs for us to carry our candles out into the darkness. It is risky. Do something. Give. Live. Risk Love: that is the heart of Christmas.