[Two years have flown by since the tragedy in Newton. Two years that have seen children killed in wars, Christians displaced by ISIS, families torn apart by sin, and senseless tragedy of every sort. Once again, echoes of Rachel weeping fill my Christmas thoughts and prayers.]
In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Newton, the verses from Matthew’s nativity account have tumbled through my grieving thoughts dozens of times.
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens
As I read through the grief-stricken accounts of the Newtown shootings, my heart is full with a tragedy that is impossible to wrap my mind around.
Tears come to my eyes as I think of the mothers who kissed their little ones good-bye for the last time Friday morning, of the families whose joyous anticipation of Christmas has been shattered by heartless, senseless death. Tears well up as I read of neighbors taking down their Christmas decorations out of love for those who won’t have a Merry Christmas.
But as I’ve thought of the propriety of celebrating Christmas in light of such tragedy, Herod’s soldiers keep coming to mind.
I love setting up our nativity display with Mary, Joseph and the shepherds worshipping the tiny King. I love the star that adorns the top of our tree. I love the wise men bringing their gifts and the angels proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”
But Herod’s soldiers? Surely they are not part of the story. The image of Herod’s soldiers tearing little boys from the arms of their wailing mothers and murdering them before their eyes sends shudders down my spine.
But Herod’s soldiers are just as much a part of the Christmas story as the shepherds and wise men.
Jesus wasn’t born into a Kincaid-esque town, wrapped in peace and love.
The second Person of the Trinity was born into a dirty stable, with smelly shepherds as His first worshippers. He was born under the reign of a tyrant who ordered the cold-blooded murder of little children.
Jesus didn’t come into a world that was getting along just fine without Him. He came because our fallen race desperately needs a Savior.
“After all the investigations [in Newtown], after everything is examined, after all the funerals are held, we will still come down to this—we are a broken race, lost and without God in the world… Jesus is the answer, and the senselessness of our sin is the presenting problem… At Christmas, we celebrate the entry of Jesus into this world. As our sorry condition demonstrates, we desperately need Him.” (from The Senselessness of It)
God became man to redeem mankind from the terror of sin. This is why, in the face of such tragedy, we will weep and we will pray. But we will also still celebrate, for only in the Incarnation lies our hope.