Newtown, the Christmas story, and Bethlehem’s Sons

I was planning on publishing some goofy thing on Conversatio Morum for Christmas. Similar to what happened on Thanksgiving. However, as I started reading the Christmas account from Matthew 2 this year, any goofy post I had thought of fell by the wayside. I was taken into the story in a new way. There was a part that I had simply accepted and never meditated on, or ignored. Until yesterday.

Some of you may have guessed already. If not, what I’m referring to is in Matthew 2:16-18, where Herod murders any baby boy under 2-years-old in Bethlehem. I hope it’s obvious why this struck me anew. As the news about Sandy Hook have startled us awake and the implications of an atrocious act that occurred on December 14th by Adam Lanza are just now beginning to sink in, we’re left to grapple with the tension of belief in a good God and then the horrible acts that occurred.  As a father, I can’t imagine the pain of those parents. My response was to go home, hug and kiss my kids, pray and cry for the Newtown parents, and pray that I would never have to learn of that pain by experience.

But now reading this story, I have new eyes to see this. The longer I go as a father, the harder it is to emotionally disconnect from news like this. This is one of the reasons I didn’t write on the Sandy Hook story. I still wasn’t planning on it until I read through Matthew. I am able to emotionally connect with the outrage felt then. Maybe it’s Sandy Hook, maybe it’s my 1-year-old sweet boy. I’m not sure, but I know the things that run through my mind as a parent when I try to empathize with either Newtown now or Bethlehem then. Sure I knew the events were sad, but now it’s thinkable. It could happen to me. I think the biggest tie between these two events, that are separated by over 2000 years, is the seeming lack of justice. The families in Newtown will never get justice, because Lanza decided to do that his own way, he off’d himself and took the chance FROM them. The families of those boys in Bethlehem never received justice since this was done by those who were supposed to uphold justice, not cause tragedy. So what do we do with this? How do we grapple with it?

It seems that for Jesus to come into to the world, for God to come to us, so many horrible things had to happen. Jesus is arguably the most polarizing figure in history. Wars have been fought, genocides committed, children killed…It could be argued that all the wars we have fought, in some way tie back to it. As if Jesus is the one that separates, not the prince of peace. But isn’t that what he said in Matthew 10:34?

So why is his coming even good news at all? You see we wonder and we search, these horrible events make us feel alone. We wonder where hope is. We forget that because of his coming…there is a God…who now knows us. We forget that there is one who knows us better than we can even know ourselves. He’s been where we’ve been. That’s the amazing part, right? The God who created oxygen, and sky, Halley’s Comet, E Minor, and sunsets. The God who holds ALL THINGS together. He put on flesh, and he knows us. He’s cried tears. He still does. That’s what he tells us in Hebrews 4:14-16, he can empathize with our weakness. He knows the pain of those children, he knows the pain of those families. If a 33-year-old man dies it’s a tragedy because he died young and then we follow a single homeless man who was murdered.
It’s easy, when tragedy strikes, to remember the birth that caused so much pain for others in Matthew 2:16-17, and forget the purpose of that birth was a God not so distant from our pain in Matthew 26-27.
Not only was he murdered, but he knew the fear of death. Publius Quinctilius Varus crucified 2000 men outside Jerusalem when Jesus was a boy. When he used the word cross, when he walked into it, he knew. He did it anyway, out of a greater love for us. Not only did he know fear of death, he knew those who died. The shortest verse in the bible is “Jesus wept” in John 11:35 as he mourned for his murdered, beheaded, cousin whom he probably grew up playing with.

Jesus…knows…your…pain.

He knows and is with the families of Sandy Hook, and Newtown. He’s sitting with them, crying with them, listening to the stories that he was also there for. He’s comforting them. He’s with them just like he was with Bath in 1926, and just like he was there in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. He came, he knows, and he was there.

I am thankful that he came. Even with the tragedy that was brought, even with the fallenness of a world so broken. He entered into all of this with us. He saw and felt our pain, our suffering, our longing for everything to be fixed and made right. So he came.

Tonight I was at a Christmas service and a song was sung. I heard it differently tonight. I felt the emotions of a parent with a child just born. I felt, as best I could, the pain of a parent losing a child. I felt fear, love, hope, joy, angst for a world made right. All of this rolled together as we sang.

What child is this
Who lay to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh
Come peasant king to own him
The King of Kings salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone him

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary

O raise, raise a song on high
His mother sings a lullaby
Joy, oh joy for Christ is born
The Babe, the son of Mary

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary

What child is this who lay to rest
On Mary’s lap, on Mary’s lap he is sleeping

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary
The Babe, the Son of Mary
The Son of Mary

So tonight, I’ll rest. I’ll kiss my kids, be thankful for my family, and know that God knows. I’ll sleep without all the angst, knowing that there is a God who knows. I’ll pray for Sandy Hook and Newtown once again knowing there’s a God who knows. Knowing that there’s one who will right all things. I know him. He knows me. He knows you. He knows….

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