Some families in Newtown, Connecticut, have taken down their Christmas decorations. It is their understandable response to the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Last week a young gunman shot 20 children, aged 6-7 years old, and 6 adults, including the head teacher. Many people around the world have shared something of the pain and anguish of the families who have lost children and loved ones. The fact that young children were killed so close to Christmas has deepened the sadness.
Christmas in our secular world is a strange time. It comes in the darkest days of winter and, for many, involves spending large amounts of money. For those who are poor it accentuates the difference between them and their richer neighbours. In a secular celebration of Christmas, however, there is nothing to touch the deepest recesses of our hearts and the pain and sadness that many in this world experience.
The event that Christmas really celebrates, however, speaks to us all in every experience of life. It truly is something to remember and celebrate. The birth of Jesus is the focal point of history. He was no ordinary child. He was conceived in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit because he was both God and man. He is “Immanuel” which means “God with us.”
That is exactly what we all need to know, and especially the families in Newtown who have lost their children and loved ones so tragically. It is good that they are finding real comfort in the support of the community and of people in America and around the world. But as time goes on, and life returns to the new “normal”, they will need to know that God really is with them in their sadness and loss.
Jesus is uniquely able to understand and help us in our times of deepest need. When he was a baby there was a plan to kill him. Soon after he was born an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Herod did send his soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to kill all boys under the age of 2. Their families were devastated. This Christmas let’s pray that the bereaved families in Newton, and all of us, will know that, in Jesus, God really is “with us.”