Praying for the Innocents

Christmas is a time for joy and celebration. And the events of this last week, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, have crashed into our thoughts of joy and brought devastating sadness and mourning. It seems so contradictory. It screams incongruity. How does this fit into the story of someone who came to be the light of the world and the Prince of Peace?

It isn’t unlike the Christmas story itself. Behind the shepherds and angels, the wise men and Mary, there was a ruler. Herod. He refused to enter into the joy of the arrival of a new King. He sought to destroy it.

Do you know the story? After the wise men came to see Jesus, he saw Jesus as a threat to his power. And he sought to destroy the hope of the world. People who live for self are threatened by love, sacrifice, faithfulness and goodness.

The story in the gospel is known as “The Death of the Innocents.”

Matthew 2:13-18 reads, “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under; according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.'”

In the middle of the story of God’s love and deliverance, there is death and destruction. There are people in our world who strive to destroy the gifts of God’s grace. People who, for one reason or another, have been filled with evil and desire to destroy all that is good. But rather than see this as a defeat of God’s grace, it is the reason for God’s grace.

This kind of sadness and destruction is exactly why Jesus came. He didn’t come into an idyllic suburb of Jerusalem. He came into a hell-infested nest of evil. He didn’t come to a world that would accept Him. He came to a world that would nail him to a cross, save for the few who saw him for who he is.

You see, this event doesn’t destroy Christmas, it reasserts our need for Christ. It actually puts it all back into perspective. So how do we respond?

1. Mourn. Be sad. God is sad. But God is never without hope, for he knows his higher purposes.

2. Double-down on celebrating Christ. Not by buying more gifts, but by worshiping more wholeheartedly.

3. Declare that Jesus came to a broken world to save broken people.

4. Live the grace he came to bring. Be filled with him and his love.

How do you fit this event into the story of Christmas?