Monday, December 17, 2012

A Tragic Christmas

I couldn't peel my eyes from the rearview mirror as I watched E walk into school this morning. It helped that he was followed in by a deputy from the Sheriff's department... but I couldn't shake the thought that parents just like me had dropped off their children on Friday never knowing it would be the last time they'd see them.

I sat in church yesterday with tears streaming as the Pastor offered words of solace and a prayer for the grieving families. A senseless act. An unexplainable tragedy.

It hits close to home, knowing I have presents already wrapped waiting to be ripped open on Christmas day. New clothes yet to wear. New toys waiting to be played with. Wish lists fulfilled that have yet to be discovered. Just days before Christmas, it seems even harder to comprehend.

There's a part of the Christmas story that isn't shared a lot yet it's fitting for such a time as this.

"When Herod had 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." Matthew 2:16

It was tragic. A bloody, brutal massacre. A horrific scene that rocked a people beyond what anyone could have fathomed. Grief-stricken, angry, and confused parents wondering why their child had to be the one sacrificed. Who knows how many lives lost. Children with their entire lives ahead of them. Innocent victims - their only "crime" being a young boy at the wrong time when a selfish man let his cold heart make a decision that altered families.

I know I've read it before, recognizing even more miracles in the life of Jesus. An angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph and warning him to escape to safety (vs. 13). Prophecies fulfilled and a Savior who had not yet fulfilled His purpose on earth (vs. 14, 19-23). But amidst all the good tidings of great joy and the praises to Emmanuel, I missed the tragedy that other families were experiencing at the loss of their little ones.

When Mary pondered all these things in her heart, I'm sure she was tender-hearted enough to rejoice over her son's birth and his safe-keeping, yet mourn with the other mothers who were grieving the loss of their little ones. I imagine she too was hugging her son even tighter. I'm sure she was smothering his face with kisses of gratitude. I'm sure, like me, she was holding onto every second with him and not letting him out of her sight.

It's a weird feeling to be mixed with joy and grief at the same time. Wanting to celebrate the life you've been given, yet mourning with those who have lost.

Verse 18 shares what many hearts are feeling, I'm sure:
"A voice is heard in Ramah (Newton), weeping and great mourning, Rachel (mothers) weeping for her (their) children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more." (parenthesis mine)

It was yet another prophecy fulfilled straight from Jeremiah and when you flip back to that passage the Lord responds to her weeping:

"Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded," declares the Lord. "They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future," declares the Lord. "Your children will return to their own land." Jeremiah 31:16-17

There are children celebrating Christmas at the feet of Jesus. Much too young, I believe, yet their faith has become sight. The birth of the Savior is no longer just a tale of old but now a bible story come to life before their very eyes. It still seems insignificant to the mounting emotions their families are trying to cope with. But there is hope for the future.

In the face of adversity and grief, there is the hope of a Savior who is Christ the Lord. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. His birth was only the beginning because He died to save you and me that we might have eternal life with Him. We may not understand "why" or "how" or "how do you ever move on" from something like this. At least not in the fallen state of our human flesh. But we do have the assurance of eternal life when we believe and receive His gift of salvation.

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