Sandy Hook and Christmas
Yesterday was the third Sunday in Advent, the day when many churches around the world light the Joy candle. As tears streamed down faces, we sang and worshipped and tried to grasp Joyous expectation in the shadow of unspeakable horror. But this juxtaposition doesn't remove us from its meaning; it brings us closer. Immanuel--God with us--didn't come to an idyllic world. He came to save us from the evil around us, the evil within us. Sandy Hook elementary school is exactly what Christmas is about.
Evil lashed out on Friday, slaughtering the most innocent among us. We grieve, we yell, we want to fix this. It feels too dark and too demonic and too big to be real. How could this happen? Who would do this? We feel helpless. Hopeless. Mystified.
Yet, this is the world Christ entered. He is not mystified by great evil--He knows the hearts of men, knows that we are all sin-sick and evil within. Only His grace and the restraining of the Holy Spirit makes this tragedy rare. With a little more disease, a little more hate or abuse or a twisting of the soul, you or I could (or do?) slaughter innocence--maybe not in such a horrific way, but in our own way. Do not doubt your potential for evil, if it were allowed to consume you.
The world was sin-sick and hopeless two thousand years ago--full of injustice, idolatry, murder, gossip, adultry, rebellion, pride, gluttony, anger, selfishness. And in a now sickingly-familiar tragedy, Herod ordered all baby boys under two slaughtered, the Massacre of Innocents.
How sick was he to do such a thing? How sick was Adam Lanza to do such a thing? How sick is this world? How we need to be rescued.
And that's the true Joy of Christmas. Not the sweet, silent night type of joy; not the perfect Christmas present joy. This joy, then and now, is of the rescue mission. It's the joy of the POW hearing a rescue squad engaging his captors. It's the kidnap victim hearing her sick and twisted abuser overcome by authorities. It's a line of sweet elementary school children being led out of hell with their eyes closed.
The Joy of Immanuel--Jesus's incarnation, death, and resurrection--is that Christ came to rescue this hopeless, twisted, sin-sick world from the evil that enslaves it. We mourn Sandy Hook's massacre of innocents, and are horrified by the darkness. And in the horror, perhaps for the first time, we understand true Advent Joy.