Across our nation, the joy and celebration of Christmas can’t help but be dimmed by the horrible tragedy of Newtown for to be human is to share in their grief.
It was in writing that sentence I realized that “to be human” is at the heart of the Christmas story. While we think of the “beauty” of the Christ child in some romanticized manger scene and the angelic proclamation of joy that accompanied His birth, Christmas is about God becoming human, what the theologians call the incarnation.
Christmas is God entering into the world in human form to let us know our pain has not escaped His notice and that God really is there in those hard and hard-to-make-sense-of moments.
Christmas is as much about Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb experiencing our pain and raging at our final enemy, death, as it is the manger.
And finally, Christmas is God initiating for us the way to a hope that allows us to see that what happens here is not meaningless and that there is that place without pain that our hearts want to believe is real.
Perhaps, in the context of both Newtown and Jerusalem, the words of this old carol (I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day) say it best:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”