Like everyone else, I was shocked and then deeply troubled last Friday as I watched the unfolding news coverage of the massacre that occurred in a Connecticut elementary school. My first instinct was to try and make sense of it - how - who - why? But then I quickly realized: Senseless murder is always just that - senseless. There is simply no making sense of it, so don't bother trying. And although all murders are troubling, there is something much more sinister and dark about knowing that young children were deliberately targeted and then riddled with bullets.
So how do I process something evil like this in what is supposed to be the joyous and peaceful season of Christmas?
Well it struck me as I was reflecting on the Christmas story found in Matthew 2, that the school shooting in Connecticut is not the first time children have been deliberately targeted and massacred at Christmas time, in fact the direct result of the very first Christmas was a mad man ordering the mass execution of infants and toddlers.
"Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, because the wise men had told him the star first appeared to them about two years earlier. Herod's brutal action fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah:
'A cry of anguish is heard in Ramah - weeping and mourning unrestrained. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted - for they are dead."
It appears that the same evil that was evident at the first Christmas is still alive and well in our world today. As a father to a twenty month old son, this thought is frightening. Instinctively I want to protect my boy and attack anyone who would dare harm him. But the cruel fact is that in spite of my best efforts, I cannot always protect him nor guarantee his safety. So I must realize that it is not any one person, people, or system that threaten him, but evil itself. As long as evil exists in this world the potential for ordinary people to do evil things will also exist.
But how can I attack evil? How can anyone attack evil? There is only one way - with love, radical love.
The kind of radical love that God demonstrated to an evil king in an evil world on that first Christmas when instead of being concerned about protecting His only Son from those who would harm Him, God sent His Son into harms way into an evil world to die for evil people so that they could get rid of the evil deeds of darkness and live out the good deeds of the Kingdom of Light. Radical love and radical sacrifice - even towards the perpetrators of evil - that is God's Way.
Victoria Soto embodied this type of sacrificial love. She was one of the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School who after hearing gunfire hid her students in the classroom closets and then faced the masked gunman alone. When he burst into the classroom and at gunpoint demanded to know where her students were, she told him that they weren't there - and was immediately gunned down. She was found huddled over her children, her students, protecting them to her dying breath. Victoria Soto faced evil with radical, sacrificial love and in doing so saved her students.
This is a picture of what Jesus did for the world - but not only for the good people or the deserving people.
King Herod and Adam Lanza, the two men behind the mass murders of children, and yet it was even for them and people like them that Jesus, The Son of God, came into this world to save and redeem.
But be warned, the path of radical love is not an easy one, it wasn't easy for Jesus and won't be for you or I, but it is the path that God Himself has shown us.
May God grant all of us the grace, courage, and faith to follow His path through these troubled times.
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