I was sitting at my desk on Friday when the news broke. A shooter had forced his way into a school and had killed a bunch of children. I had to read several websites before I could believe what was actually taking place. Another disturbed, and probably mentally ill, young man had gone on a shooting spree. This time, however, the victims were innocent little kids and the brave adults who tried to protect them. It didn’t seem possible that this was actually taking place in the middle of the Christmas season. Not that there is ever a better time for these things to happen, but evil was on stark display at one of the most sacred times of the year. When parents were supposed to be buying last minute Christmas presents, they were now going to be arranging funerals.
So as we enter the third week of advent and light the shepherd’s candle representing the joy they experienced at the news the received from the angels, I am struggling. Where is the joy in a world so messed up that this kind of random and hideous violence can change the lives of a so many people in a little town in Connecticut in an instant? Just like that, the Grinch who stole Christmas is unmasked as the demonic force he really is. I have often said that Satan comes like a harlot in the west and a snake in the developing world. His greatest tactic in America has been to distract us from the real meaning of Christmas by lulling us to sleep with inane “holiday” music and the insatiable appetite for more stuff. This week, however, the harlot became a snake and the venom is still working its way through our system.
The signs of the snake bite became obvious when all the talk on Facebook shifted from the tragedy taking place before our very eyes to the need for more gun control or not. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a time and place for that conversation, but minutes after the shooting there were Christians on Facebook staking out their firmly held positions on this issue in such a nasty way that you could almost taste the poison working its way through the body. Instead of empathy for the families and friends of the victims, we were leaping to conclusions and making sure that our voices were heard above the din. Believe me, I sure that we were heard and our enemy was delighting in one more successful diversionary tactic.
How interesting that the angels came to shepherds in the first place. Nasty, smelly people, who apparently had a reputation for stealing what they needed on their nomadic journey from place to place. Not exactly the cream of the crop, but just the right people to get the message. Being on the fringe of society, they understood what is was not to be liked and maybe for good reason. Despite this, our heavenly father decided to make them the primary audience for a choir full of angels. They experienced joy that night like never before and probably never quite the same again. The God of the universe took time to enter our world and told them first. No wonder they rushed into town to find the baby. Their savior had come and they new they needed one.
Last night, I was still pretty shook up about Friday’s events when I went to a Christmas program at a nearby church. The music was great, the orchestra was excellent, the decorations were just right and yet I couldn’t help feeling sad. Right at the end, the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus and invited the audience to join them. Many people actually went up on stage, but one little boy in the balcony decided he could stay right where he was and still join in. I was sitting two rows behind him and could not help but smile. Every time the choir got to the word Hallelujah, he belted it out, not quite singing, but fitting in just the same. His face radiated pure joy. He probably didn’t know about what happened in Connecticut nor did he need to. What he knew was that Jesus has come into his world as a baby and that God was with us. Boy did I need that reminder.