Yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 children and 6 school officials were gunned down in what has become the second deadliest shooting in American history. This massacre has dramatically impacted people all across the nation – from school officials, parents, teachers, first responders, medical personnel, the President of the United States and the many children who attend school every day in this nation. The catastrophic events of yesterday have gone far beyond words to pierce the very soul of America. How we caretake our national grief and alter our future because of this tragedy will ensure that we honor those who died and protect those children who remain.
America’s corporate grief for the people of Newtown erupted instantly across social media outlets as people struggled to understand the images they were seeing and the reports they were hearing. Who would shoot defenseless school children in a classroom? It was without explanation, without reason, and made no earthly sense. The massacre was horrible in itself, but was made all the more heartbreaking by occurring at the height of the Christmas season. How will the community of Newtown ever be able to celebrate Christmas with joy again?
Today I’ve been wrestling with my own emotions over this tragedy, and so far I’m still struggling. I knew I needed “normal” this morning so I tried to wrap a few Christmas presents, but sorrow continued to bubble just below the surface. I turned on some Christmas music to push away the sadness, but it kept washing over me in waves of agony. I cranked the music up louder, but all the songs were just too somber. I switched to the “happy” Christmas station, but it grated against my spirit to the point that I just needed silence.
I wanted normal. I needed normal.
I sought for it in silence.
Suddenly, a picture of the angelic host singing and praising God the night Jesus was born zipped through my mind.
“How could they, Lord? How could the angels sing that night?” I wondered aloud to an empty room.
The announcing angel told the shepherds that he had, “Good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
“…and in the days to come after the magi tipped off King Herod that a new king had been born, would that news still have been considered ‘good news of great joy?’ Was it ‘good news’ that Jesus’ arrival initiated the slaughter of hundreds of baby boys? How could the angels rejoice in the midst of such impending violence, Lord? How could they sing?!” I demanded an answer from God. I needed an answer from God.
Finally, he spoke…
“…Hope appears in the context of despair; My light shines brightest against the backdrop of darkness; goodness reveals evil; life comes from death, and salvation comes through sacrifice,” God answered.
Oh, the agony of the paradox. The angels sang because they knew that Jesus’ birth was the beginning of the end of evil’s reign on earth. They knew that Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice was the only hope for the world. They knew he was our hope! They sang because Jesus’ coming gave glory to God and finally offered a way to extend His peace on the earth.
“May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22 (NIV)
As we move into the last days of the Christmas season with the images of the Newtown massacre fresh in our minds, may we stand in hope for all that God has promised, and may we pursue righteousness and justice for those around us. Hold onto that same hope that the angels proclaimed on the first Christmas night. Hold onto it and bring God’s light into the darkness of these days.
“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24 (NASB)
Yesterday, before I knew of the tragedy in Newtown, I published the poem below entitled, “The World God so Wondrously Loved.” I withdrew it as soon as the news broke as I believed it to be too unsettling in light of the events of the day. I am returning it to the blog today within the larger context of hope. Yes, it was a tragic day that will forever mark the community of Newtown and forever change the rest of us, but it was also a day to hang onto hope.
On the darkest of nights, God’s plan for the ages arrived in Bethlehem to give hope to a world wearied by evil. May that same Hope see us through our own journey.
Pray for the people of Connecticut.
The World God So Wondrously Loved
In the fullness of time an angel appeared
to herald the birth of a king.
To shepherds out watching,
a world that was waiting,
and choking on tyranny’s fear.
* * * * *
What infant so tiny could intimidate Rome?
A baby so helpless, so young.
Herod was troubled,
He knew well the threat,
so he slaughtered all possible foes.
* * * * *
to a city of little renown.
Bethlehem’s babies sleep
Calm before storm,
Unaware, Rachel* quietly sings.
* * * * *
Swords unsheathed gleaming to slaughter her sons
Rachel mourns, shrieking into the dark.
Babies killed one by one,
Herod’s horrid and final solution.
* * * * *
Faces of torment imprisoned by sin
In need of a Savior but none
had arrived though was promised
in years gone before,
Our hearts God determined to win.
* * * * *
Wandering nomads since Eden’s first fall
when the snake hissed the taunt,
“Hath God said?”
Distressed and despairing even of life
‘Til hope rode on Gabriel’s call.
* * * * *
The light in the sky shone bright up above
like the dawn after darkest of nights.
He came just to die
and redeem all mankind,
The world God so wondrously loved.
* * * * *
*Rachel – Synonym for the nation of Israel – reference to the predicted slaughter of innocents was foretold by Israel’s prophets in Jeremiah 31:15 and Matthew 2:18
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.