Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the devastating Sandy Hook shooting, when Adam Lanza opened fire on Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and 7 adults before taking his own life. A year ago, the news was filled with memorials and tributes, tears and laments, as our nation grieved in solidarity with Newtown, Connecticut. Kenzie and I were deeply (and rightfully) impacted by the shooting and tried to make sense of it in light of Christmas. If Christmas is a joyful day to celebrate the coming of our King wrapped in swaddling clothes, how can we rejoice when we are immersed in such painful circumstances?
I’ve noticed that most of our re-tellings of the Christmas story tend to focus on Luke’s narrative, leaving out many of the details in Matthew’s account. It makes sense why we do this, for in Matthew’s story, King Herod, feeling threatened by the birth of Jesus, slaughters all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph, upon receiving divine insight into Herod’s intentions, flee to Egypt to escape the brutality. With Jesus’ birth came the death of many innocent lives.
I imagine the pain Mary and Joseph experienced knowing they were leaving behind numerous murdered children is similar to the pain we felt as a nation over Sandy Hook. I wonder if Mary and Joseph ever told Jesus what had happened. Did he ever question what they were doing in Egypt when they obviously weren’t Egyptian? Did Jesus ever ask his parents to tell him about his birth? What did they say? Did they include the horrific details? If Jesus ever returned to Bethlehem, would he have noticed there were no boys his age? I have a hard time imagining Jesus being unaware of this part of his story.
Jesus was truly a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” not just because of his innocent death on the cross but because of the many innocent lives lost following his birth. Jesus is intimately acquainted with the intense pain that many families are presently re-living. God is not distantly unconnected with the ins and outs of life, the ups and downs of humanity, and the crippling impact of pain and sorrow. God lived these things in Jesus. He knows them first-hand.
This story, the Christmas story, is hope for all who are suffering- not just those in Newtown. In this story, we are reminded that, though there was no room in the inn, there is plenty of room in the stable for our laughter as well as our tears, our pain as well as our joy, lamentation alongside exultation. Our sorrows are not silenced on Christmas day, but find solidarity in the cries of the newborn infant. This is the story people need to hear.
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