The shootings in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday continue to rock America as we ask questions like "Why?" and "What should we have done to prevent this?" and "How can we keep this from happening in the future?" I am still grieving the grief of an observer to the most horrific act of violence I have seen in my lifetime. 9/11 was horrible and evil, to be sure, but one could possibly make some sense of it (however twisted it was as an act of violence upon civilians) if one understood that the madmen who flew those planes thought they were engaging in an act of war against America. It was wrong and evil, but you could at least comprehend that they saw all civilians as combatants in the Jihad.
But, the slaughter of first graders is incomprehensible. No mind can understand how or why such evil could erupt upon us. I am having trouble reading about the victims and I have yet to watch a single news story. I don't want to see it. Sometimes, I just have to turn away because I cannot stare at the Curse. So, I have gotten my news in bits and pieces and then I have to go do something else. We all deal with these things differently, I guess, but the death of 6 year olds in senseless slaughter is not and should not be a spectator sport.
Yesterday, I preached about another Slaughter of the Innocents found in Matthew 2, where the evil King Herod killed all of the boys aged 2 and under in and near Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus. He wanted no rival king to his throne and he would do whatever he could to get rid of Jesus. Jesus was born into a violent world of heartache and suffering and oppression. There was no room for him at the inn and there was no room for him Herod's kingdom. We see in Revelation 12 that what happened at the birth of Jesus was actually the physical manifestation of a spiritual battle between Satan and God and God's people. We see that Jesus has the ultimate victory, but we are still in the fight today as evil keeps breaking out in many different ways. It broke out on Friday and we are all feeling the effects.
This evil is a result of the Curse of Sin and Death upon the human race and all creation because of the sin of Adam, the first man. We are all sinners and this evil lives inside of each one of us. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. Death does its work on us and it is a result of mankind's rebellion against God. We all need a Savior and Jesus came to take the Curse of Sin and Death upon Himself and to make things right. After Friday, we are reminded once again that we live in a world where evil abounds whether it is found in Nazi Concentration Camps or Pol Pot's Killing Fields in Cambodia or an elementary school in Connecticut. The Curse keeps erupting and doing its worst. We also find that the Curse does not take a break for Christmas or holidays and it is not something that we can control, no matter how hard we try. We are powerless before it, at least in a societal sense. We like to think that we can make the world safe and protect the innocent, but then something else happens that we could not see. We need a Savior.
A Christmas hymn comes to mind here: "Joy to the World." How can we speak of Joy at a time like this? It is not because of circumstances but because Jesus was born into a world of violence and evil and he took that evil upon Himself and owned it. He was the sacrifice for our sins and rebellion and for all of the evil that we have done and for all that has been done to us. 1 John 3:5,8 says that Jesus came to take away our sins and destroy the Devil's work. He came to forgive us of all the evil that we have done and he came to destroy the power of the evil done against us. He did this by going to the Cross and, though innocent, enduring the greatest injustice it history. Jesus did this so that we could go free and be restored to God.
One of the lines of "Joy to the World" says,
No more let sins, and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessing flow,
Far as the Curse is found, far as the Curse if found
Far as, far as the Curse is found.
The Curse showed up again on Friday in a very clear way - in a way that shocked us, as jaded as we have become. We forgot that humans were capable of this kind of evil. Perhaps we thought that we could manage the Curse through our sophistication or intelligence. But, through horror and grief at the unthinkable, we are reminded once again how helpless we are. We cannot fix this. We can't make it better. We cannot restore the lives of these families or bring these babies back into the world. The Curse jumped up and reared its ugly head. For a moment, evil triumphed. But, we have Hope and Hope does not disappoint us. Jesus has come into this world and He has taken this evil upon Himself. We look to the Cross where this evil was dealt with and we have Hope that Jesus will make all things new. We pray that the blessings of Jesus will flow far as the Curse is found.
Apart from Christ, we are all under the Curse of sin and death and the power of Satan. We are all capable of evil, even if it looks different. We all need a Savior and only God can bring comfort to these families and Hope for the future. There is work to be done it fighting against evil and injustice and violence and as a society, we will have that conversation. But, we do not have an answer for the evil that lurks in the human heart. We need a new heart and a new mind and salvation and freedom from the evil and the Curse and the Devil that only wants to steal, kill, and destroy.
We need Jesus. May this Christmas season truly be about the birth of Jesus in our hearts and our lives so that we can be reconciled back to God.