How do we celebrate Christmas in the midst of tragedy? It’s a question I’ve been asking since the devastating violence in Newtown, Connecticut. How do we go to parties and decorate trees and hold on to hope and joy while knowing that for those families who have lost children and loved ones this is a time of unimaginable suffering?
Not by counting ourselves more fortunate. Not by thanking God that it wasn’t our child. For aren’t we all part of this violence? And aren’t they all our children?
I have often wondered how God can tolerate my Western prayers for prosperity and blessing to “give us a good day” and “help us have fun” and “watch over those we love” while so many around the world are simply praying to survive.
Does spending more money on my family and buying new clothes and standing in our finery while singing carols in warm, safe churches really honor the birth of a savior who came into a darkened world to share the light by giving his life?
Surely God loves a good party. But is this the time for celebrating?
Perhaps. For we celebrate the presence of God in a world of suffering, of a future in which the brokenhearted are healed, tears wiped away, and those we’ve lost restored.
“There is nothing of value here that will not be redeemed there,” I have often told my own children of heaven.
When their own seven-year-old sister died without warning in her sleep these words took on deeper meaning. And yet the pain of such loss is so brutal, so jagged-sharp. How do we survive until then?
“God calls us to trust him when things are still a mess–or seem to be,” Kerri Wyatt Hunt writes in Deeply Loved, 40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus. “Our fear blinds us to the blessings that are all around us. I’m challenged to heed my own advice: trust. Fix what you can; let go of what you can’t. Pray like crazy to try and figure out which is which.”
Trust. Act. Pray. Is this not the only way to live in a world of such sorrow?
And so I encourage you this week as you wrap gifts and hang ornaments and look toward the coming of light to pray for those who are now overwhelmed by darkness–not just in Newtown, but in the Congo and in Syria and around the corner.
And let your prayers not be separated from action.
For are not we who condemn such killings–here and around the world–equally accountable for them if we sit back and do nothing?
“We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work,” John 9:4.
How do you celebrate in the midst of suffering?
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