(Six years ago, when I penned this, a school shooting occurred during the Christmas season at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.)
This year, I wanted to write about warm Christmas memories and stockings hung by cozy fireplaces, but then everything fell apart. Last week tragedy struck. Children were killed, the most horrific type of injustice. Teachers who loved children were slain. Bereaved families were most sorely and severely afflicted.
Why? No one knows the answer. The funerals have begun. We all grieve.
The event sent me into a black hole, bringing back all the horrors of Columbine, when we lived across the street and witnessed the depravity of mankind firsthand. If you read my blog regularly, you know I was already down in a hole before this latest atrocity. Now the hole grew black. Darkness had struck again.
At times like this, it’s astonishing that God himself would put on human flesh and come down to live with us in this mess. Why leave the comfort of heaven? Why mingle with our filth? Why come on his peacemaking mission?
Jesus came into the same type of world. A ruthless king sought to destroy him when he was born. Innocent babies were murdered. Injustice occurred. People groups were enslaved, killed, forced into servitude, and treated like animals. And crucifixion, the vilest way to die, was invented by the Romans to torture those who committed treason against their system that devoured people whole.
Just like our world today, it was not a nice place. And into it came God in the form of a helpless infant born in a messy birth in a stall with dirt and hay and blood and poverty.
Before he even began creation, God had promised to come down here and fix this mess (Titus 1:2). He made the promise before there was even a mess to fix. For all eternity past, he had planned to come to be with us (John 1:1-18): Emmanuel, God with us. He orchestrated history, so he could die a horrific death, because our sins needed redeeming (Ephesians 1:3-14; Heb. 1:1-4).
God is blazing pure-white holiness without a smidgen of corruption. He is perfectly just with no trace of favoritism. We don’t have an earthly example of that to begin to imagine or to comprehend God. No mere human in all of human history is this holy and just.
But we want there to be justice. We need to know that God sees what has been done and that he will right every wrong, that he is the avenger. We want to escape this ugly, degrading, corrupted world where child murder, child slavery, and child exploitation exist. We are disgusted with the impurity inside our own hearts and surrounding us in the world.
O Lord! We want holiness and purity!
Knowing that God will set everything right and make everything new is the only thing that gives us hope. We wait for him to satisfy our craving for justice and holiness.
So, for us to be able to come into the presence of this blazing, pure, holy God—a God who loves with every fiber and essence of his being, he himself had to come and do the dirty work. Only he had the legal right, the moral high ground to make it right. Purely holy and purely righteous, he had to offer himself up for us as the only sacrifice that could be made to pay for our sin.
And so, of course, he did.
His love and mercy is as beyond comprehension as his holiness and justice. Our depravity required Jesus’ gruesome death, his resurrection, and his triumph over sin on our behalf. He loves us so much that he did everything required.
I didn’t want to write about darkness at Christmas, but this is the world in which we live. Week after week throughout the Advent season, people suffered financially, family tragedy struck, accidents happened, and people died. No one can keep us safe. Nothing can stop the march of grief and death. No gun laws or safety measures can fix the human heart.
We are tempted to give way to fear. Some of us already battle terror daily.
What would we do without Jesus! He came, he died, and he rose, bringing us personal peace with God and promising peace on earth when he returns.
This ugly world is not the end. God will make it new. All will be made right.
God sees, and he loves us.
“Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love, and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we. Let all within us praise His holy name! Christ is the Lord! O, Praise His name forever! O night divine! O night when Christ was born!”
In what ways are you glad for his coming?