And the Dark Side of the Nativity Scene
Christmas is very different in Newtown tonight, where residents and parents are mourning for the twenty children and seven adults who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School today. It is December 14, 2012, but the cheerful sound of Christmas songs has been replaced with the wailing sound of ďRachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.Ē Iím referring to the part of the Christmas story found in Matthew 2:18. Newtown is experiencing that part of the Christmas story tonight.
This is what I call the dark side of the Nativity Scene, the ugly side, the side most people do not think about. For soon after the shepherds had returned to their fields, after the wise men had returned to their own countries, and after the angels had finished their songs, something terrible happened in Bethlehem. King Herod ordered that all the male children in and around Bethlehem, two years old or younger, be killed. If those bereaved mothers and fathers from Bethlehem could be with us today, surely they would wrap their arms around the grieving people of Newtown and say, ďI understand what it is like to lose a child in one day, suddenly and unexpectedly, through the actions of a heartless murderer.Ē
Of course Jesus was protected. God knew what has about to happen, Joseph was warned in a dream, and by the time Herodís murderers arrived, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were on the way to Egypt, if not already there.
But why werenít the other children in Bethlehem protected? Could not the God who created heaven and earth have saved their lives as well?
God protects us in different ways. Sometimes he protects us physically. Only when we get to heaven will we have any idea of how many near misses and close encounters with death and injury we were spared through the intervention of Godís angels. But when God protected Jesus he was actually protecting us, as well, in the most important way of all. In order for our souls to be saved Jesus had to survive Herodís threats, grow up, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins, and be resurrected.
But there is more. Not only can our souls be saved through turning away from our sins and trusting in Jesus, but one day God is going to make a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no more sorrow, no more murdering of children, no more sickness, pain, and death.
Yes, Newtown must grieve tonight and for many nights and weeks and months and years ahead. Newtown must walk the same dreadful path that was travelled by those bereaved parents in Herodís Bethlehem. But as you cry, peer around the corner and see if you can catch a glimpse of that manger stall, now empty, where Jesus was born. And if in your mind you are able to see it, however dimly, then pause and wonder at this: that on the very night when Herod did his worst, that night when the gloom of those bereaved parents in Bethlehem was as dark as it could be, at the same time Godís light was beginning to shine through the life of Jesus. That same light is shining even now. Jesus is the light of the world, and he wants to lead you Ė guiding you through the darkness and the sadness Ė into everlasting life and joy.
Your brother in grief and hope,
Also, consider hearing Dr. Albert Mohler's very helpful discussion:
The Briefing Special Edition Ė Connecticut Shooting