Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Tragedies

Christmas is often marred by tragedy.  Just as in the tragic community in Connecticut where terrible shootings have taken place, Christmas decorations seem out of place when such a thing has occurred. I well remember the Penlee lifeboat disaster that occurred on the 19th of December 1981 off the coast of Cornwall, in EnglandUK. The Penlee Lifeboat went to the aid of the coaster Union Star after its engines failed in heavy seas. After the lifeboat had managed to rescue four people both vessels were lost with all hands; sixteen people died including eight volunteer lifeboatmen. Like the parents of the children shot down in their Newtown primary class, the families of these brave men must have felt like cancelling Christmas that year.

The rosy-eyed nostalgia with which we recall this season in the year has no real basis in Scripture.  The first Noel sounded out in a land occupied by enemy soldiers where blood flowed freely in the streets.  Political discussion was outlawed then and dissent was suppressed violently.  To cap it all, when the visitors from the East had reported their venture to King Herod and then tricked him by going home some other way, the outraged monarch ordered that every baby boy under the age of two be murdered in the vicinity of Bethlehem.  The sobs of the parents and cries of the young must have been very similar to those in Newtown USA in 2012.

No, Christmas is not always merry or bright.  But it is God's response to a broken world.  Into the very midst of evil and suffering he sent his son, so that we would able to come to him in our pain and find one who is 'touched with the feelings of our infirmities'.  Jesus came to a manger not a throne or a palace.  He came to a tragic scene not a Christmas card montage.  He came to save and heal, not to entertain or institute an annual festival.  Above all, he came because he cares - and the dear folk in Newtown are going to need that care as much as anyone in First Century Galilee.  So are we.