Update: Dec. 2013 — Another school shooting — this time in my home state of Colorado — and it’s Christmastime again —and another mother’s child is dead. Reminds me of just a year ago when I wrote this as a response to the awful Sandy Hook school shooting…
How can a mother be consoled when her little child is taken from her? Perhaps a mother in Sandy Hook, Connecticut hurried her son or daughter to school that morning a year ago, with a little scolding and a few reminders and a quick kiss on the cheek … only to be informed a few hours later that her child has fallen dead with her first-grade class, victims in a senseless, bloody massacre.
How can any of us wrap our minds around this? Since it is Christmas, we listen for words of comfort. We usually only hear the beautiful music, the softness of the Christmas story: angel wings, starlight, sweet-smelling hay, swaddling cloths, wooly sheep, gently falling snow, Mary cuddling the baby, cattle lowing, shepherds worshiping.
Usually in reading the Christmas story from the Gospels, we skip, gloss over, don’t talk to the kids about the part where Herod massacres all the children age two and under. Babies. Infants. Toddlers. Mothers’ children. Slaughtered. Blood running and pooling. Mothers wailing, unable to be consoled. (See Matthew 2:16-18.)
But the angels announce, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to men,” spoken to a world where evil holds sway and often has its way … this world into which the Christ child was born. According to the prophet, his name is “Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.” The son of God, who is all goodness, light, life, love … broke into this kingdom oppressed by sin and evil. Why? To shine into the darkness. To reveal a better way that is lived by faith with hope. A kingdom of grace and love and children fully alive. A kingdom he will fully restore one day soon.
Then, when horrible deeds jar us into acknowledging the presence and power of evil in our midst, how do we respond? Even as we walk through the darkness, surrounded by those who react in fear, hate, blame, we can:
Allow the light of Jesus, the living Word, to shine his light of truth on our path, showing us where to step next.
Use the resources he has given us through his Holy Spirit, to resist and overcome evil (both inward and outward).
Let God use us to shine his light and dispel the darkness around us. We do this by prayers of faith, praise, speaking the truth of Christ, creating and sharing beauty, making music, showing love and compassion. Then, “The light shines in darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it” (John 1:5).
And when we hear the cries of tragically bereaved mothers who cannot be consoled, we cry with them, stand with them, hope for them.
We do all this because “God is with us.” Emmanuel.
~ Catherine Lawton