By Mark A. Taylor
Some residents in the small, close-knit community of Newtown, Connecticut, took down and put away their Christmas decorations this weekend, and we probably can’t blame them. In the wake of Friday’s trauma and loss, many residents of that small town can’t face holiday festivity.
Any of us, even those far from Connecticut, have trouble sorting out our feelings after nonstop news about the horror.
The Muzak cycle of “Holly, Jolly Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” rings hollow—especially when we think about so many who will never again be home for Christmas.
But this intrusion of evil into an elementary school’s serene routine can remind Christians why we celebrate this year, and every year. Ben Cachiaras put it this way in his blog post December 14:
God identifies with the suffering. Christ followers believe that in Jesus, God became vulnerable to and involved in the suffering and death of this world! . . . He was born screaming in the cold night through travail, onto matted animal straw through a birth canal of a woman who endured excruciating pain. There was blood in the manger. There was blood on the cross. And if it weren’t shocking enough to see God show up covered with mucous and membranes, we see him on the cross and we come to the staggering realization that God now knows what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack.
Paul Williams echoes this thought in his post this week. “There are thousands of religions,” he writes, “but only one in which a personal God chose to come to earth to suffer with his creation.” His conclusion:
Life is not a steady line of inevitable progress. It is sustained messiness. God’s arrival on earth redeems the messiness. His suffering made crooked ways straight and brought meaning to our wild and precious lives. His triumph over suffering brought the hope that sustains us through every season of our lives.
Including this season. Including this Christmas. Now, more than ever, Christians have reason and opportunity to demonstrate and proclaim the hope that was born in Bethlehem.
That hope blossoms when we add the cross and the empty tomb to the story that starts with the manger. As the apostle Paul told the church in Corinth: “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:14).
President Obama quoted from the next paragraph of the apostle’s letter when he spoke at Newtown’s memorial service December 16:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
At Christmas we remember that the eternal God entered time-bound earth to give you and me—and the sufferers in every corner—a reason to look beyond today. And that is why, even in the face of tragedy, we still can celebrate.