Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas in Newtown

Last week, a murderer went on a rampage in a locked schoolhouse, killing 26 people before turning the gun on himself. And whenever things like this happen, the question is always asked: “Where was God?” That question is often asked, but it is seldom given a good answer. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible provides good answers to many of life's toughest questions, including that one. And one of the answers is provides, believe it or not, is Christmas. I can tell you that I love Christmas as much as the next guy. I love the stockings, the tree, the candy, the spiral hams, the parties, the Christmas music, the gifts, the cold and snow that hopefully will show up then. I love it all! I’m still a big kid, basically, when it comes to Christmas.

But Christmas, as anyone who has listened to Linus each year could tell you, isn’t really about any of those things, nice as they are. What it’s really about is how the God who made us loved us and invaded our world. He came on a rescue mission to put right the world we broke (and continue to break) and to do it in a way that doesn’t involve destroying all of us for the evil that lurks in our hearts. Christmas is about that, about God not only loving us, but loving us enough to wade into the darkness of this world and take that very darkness and the punishment it justly deserves upon Himself so that the world and its people would be healed from it and restored to relationship with Him. Christmas is about how God isn’t removed, watching us from a distance, like some absentee landlord, but willing to wade into the muck and mire of human life as one of us to deliver us from the destruction we by nature bring on ourselves and everyone around us.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden, every single human human being has flung himself or herself headlong into rebellion against God. That rebellion takes many forms, from pride, coveting, lust, greed, and other common, nigh unto "respectable" sins, to the darker ones like hatred, immorality, wrath, idolatry, rage, adultery, murder, and yes, schoolhouse shootings. All of it is fruit from the same tree, which is a twisted heart, bent away from God. Which is why whatever "solutions" we come up with to prevent the next example of this kind of evil may succeed in the short run, but will not eliminate evil from our society. As Solzhenitsyn said, "the line of good and evil cuts through every human heart. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" There are only two solutions: either eliminate all the dark hearted people (which is all of us!) or change the hearts of men.Without changed hearts, we will never run out of tragedies and examples of the deep evil present within human beings. Next week will probably bring another one. In fact, so will a good look in the mirror.

But the joy of Christmas is that Jesus came, just like God promised over and over and over through the Hebrew Scriptures. He is the Seed of the Woman, the son of Judah, the true Passover Lamb, the son of David, the Son of God, who had a ministry that began Galilee and ended with his rejection and death. God used heinous evil committed against His own son to bring restoration from and forgiveness for evil to all who will trust in Him. That is what Christmas is all about. That is the reason we celebrate Jesus’ birth, the certain knowledge that all the things in the world that are not as they should be will not always be the way they are. Indeed, we human beings, who have the most the do with the reason the world is the way it is, have the opportunity to be made right. That is God’s reason for Christmas, His Christmas gift to us.

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