There was a time when “a Connecticut Christmas” would have conjured up Christmas card images: flocked evergreens, multicolored lights glistening on snow-covered streets, children sledding in the park, smoke curling from chimneys where families gather around the warm glow of the fireplace. But, four years ago this week, that image was shattered. On Dec. 14, 2012, a deranged 20 year-old walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut and killed 20 children between 6 and 7 years old along with 6 faculty who tried to protect them.
When the news broke on that awful day, I found myself not wanting to be disturbed by the painful images and stories. Four years later, I still find myself watching little children singing Christmas carols at church on Sunday and thinking about those who died in Newtown. I think about the families with empty space under Christmas trees where presents no longer wait for their children.
While the rest of the world has moved on from that tragic day, I suspect there are mothers and fathers whose pain is still too deep for words. I find myself wishing that this kind of evil were not present in the world, wishing that the innocent did not suffer, that injustice and violence did not exist. I found myself asking how God could let something like this happen, especially on the cusp of the Christmas season.
The Magi who came seeking the newborn King unwittingly tipped Herod off to his birth. After they refused to report his birth, Herod sent his death squad to kill him. Matthew wrote, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’” (Matthew 2:16-18).
Being warned in a dream that the child Jesus was in danger, Joseph fled with his Mary and the baby and went into hiding as refugees in Egypt.
The power of that first Christmas is found in the fact that God embraced the confusing cruelty of our world. It was in the midst of evil, pain and suffering that Jesus was born. It was precisely because of the senseless evil in this world that God sent His Son. He came to give His own innocent life as a ransom for our sins. He conquered death by His resurrection and one day He will remove the evil from this world by His return.