In Great Darkness a Star Has Risen
By: Alistair Brown
Today my colleagues and I prayed for those experiencing unimaginable grief because of the Connecticut school shooting. Their children and other loved ones have been stolen from them. So we prayed for all who mourn, for those who have been through similar tragedies and whose wounds are once again opened, for a community who never thought such a thing could happen in their midst, and for a nation asking ‘how did this happen?’ and ‘what now?’.
Anyone who offers trite answers is deeply unwise. In late 2004, following the December 26 tsunami off Indonesia which claimed 230,000 lives in 14 countries, I was asked to write the lead article for the Baptist Times in the UK (where I led the Baptist Missionary Society at that time). I do not remember now what I said. I do remember how deeply inadequate I felt in trying to say anything.
I feel like that again. So I have only two lines of thought, and I apologize in advance if either comes over as trite.
One is that when it seems impossible to say anything helpful or to do anything that removes the evil from ever happening again, the danger is that we slump back helplessly. Not knowing how to solve everything cannot mean we try nothing. I have not lived most of my life in America, and know I do not fully understand the background issues. Others have to help me understand, and they do. But I have been here enough time to know America does not throw up hands in despair, say ‘we can do nothing’, and wait for the next tragedy. So, may God grant us wisdom to know what can be done and the courage to do it.
My other thought has to do with the brokenness of this world. This is earth, not heaven, and though God’s kingdom has broken into the world it is still a place where evil occurs. And I find no biblical teaching that it will end yet. One day, but not yet. That’s not a counsel of despair for two reasons.
One, we are the people God sends into this messed-up world to bring change, good change. “Blessed are the peacemakers…”, the children of God who cry out to God for mercy and then set about bringing God’s good news, God’s values, God’s peace to this earth. We don’t just long for peace; we work for peace with every fiber of our beings.
The other reason I don’t despair is because of Christmas. God came. The Word was made flesh, and made flesh in a world that was wicked, dangerous, and difficult. He came to people living under a cruel occupying power, to people who were afraid that God’s power had gone from them, and to people who did not even want him. He came. He healed, he delivered, he gave new hope, and he saved. They killed him and he died with their sins. He rose and called people to himself, and sent the Holy Spirit to empower his church. And so we are here today. All because he came. All because of Christmas.
A dreadful, horrific tragedy took place in Newtown just before Christmas. But I am thankful there is a Christmas. We are not alone. We may see great evil, but we are not abandoned to it. We grieve, but there is a comforter. We see darkness, but a star has risen as a sign of a Savior.
Thank God it is Christmas. Thank God there is hope. Thank God for the good news which all must hear and for the loving care God longs we bring to all who mourn.