A 20-year-old man, Adam Lanza, first killed his mother Nancy and then, dressed in combat gear, drove the short distance to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and began shooting. With two semiautomatic pistols and one semiautomatic rifle Lanza murdered 26 people before killing himself.
Most horrifying is the gruesome news that 20 children ages six and seven are among the dead. Who can read the names of these little ones and not be overcome with grief?
Of course, it’s Christmas time. This unfathomable evil has come upon our nation when we’re supposed to be drinking Eggnog, eating sugar cookies, and singing songs about sleigh bells and nutcrackers. But the Christmas story, rightly understood, speaks of joy and sorrow. Indeed, the Christmas story speaks to Newtown.
Shortly after the birth of Jesus we read of the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). Joy ringing out in the heavens! But this joy is mixed with unspeakable sorrow as we read of King Herod’s massacre of all male children two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding region (Cf., Matt. 2:16-18).
Yes, the Christmas story speaks to Newtown. And it speaks to us.
The Christmas story knows suffering because Jesus was born to give his life a ransom for many. The Christmas story is the story of the suffering Sovereign — the One who bled and died for sinners like us.
But Christmas not only knows suffering, it also knows victory. Ultimate victory. Why? Because the Father would raise the Son from the dead. And this risen Savior promises to come again and make all things new. C.S. Lewis captures this truth well when he writes in The Great Divorce,
[Some mortals] say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.
Every tear wiped away, every wrong made right, and all of our mourning turned to joy. This is the promise of the gospel. And this is why we can sing with the angels, even if through tears, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
With heavy hearts, God help us to sing.