I’m driving on a crowded street of Christmas frenzy when I hear it on the radio. Parents in uproar because Toronto city schools spoke to their children about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I glance in the rearview mirror at my three, safe with me this morning. My eyes well with salty tears. Salt burns in the wounds.
Parents are enraged because they ‘tried to shelter their children from the news’ and yet teachers speak truth in school. And this upsets them? I slowly shake my head. So, it’s not okay to speak about human tragedy but it’s ok to teach big bang and evolution. It’s not okay to talk real life pain but it’s ok when our first graders bump to hip hop and fuss with peers over their perceived ‘hotness’. Oh, this world is upside down.
Six teachers and twenty children are dead and we’re creating armed backpacks for kids. Friends, we need to be talking about it. With each other and especially wih our children. As a home educator, yes, I choose to shelter our children from certain things, but never, ever from the truth. Real life, real loss, these are things we discuss openly. They know slavery and they’ve prayed for children by name who’ve died too soon and yes, we talk about life just as it is – messy and gravely in need of a Saviour.
It’s lunch time now on a dreary day. We sit together and light candles at the kitchen table. I breathe deep and look into their innocent eyes.
“Somestimes, really terrible things happen in this world,” my chin quivers. “And something really, really awful happened a few days ago.” They’re all ears, quiet, expectant.
“What, Mama?” our sweet daughter’s whispering, waiting.
“A young man who was very angry and very lost… he killed many children and teachers in a school…. In the United States.”
My daughter’s eyes soften, her brow furrows. My heart could bust inside of me. These three little ones in front of me – so precious. Still here. Breathing. Alive. All those other ones – they’re not here. Their beds are empty.
There are no words to explain it away. This world is shattered. I look down. My socks are mismatched and my nails are chipped with blue polish. People still ask me if I’m a student and I shovel mini chocolate chips in my mouth when I’m bored. How am I a Mother? Who am I to speak life into these three souls before me? What answers do I have?
I whisper to them about things I don’t understand – pain, evil, sickness, guns. I whisper His name, Jesus, in spite of all this, He is God. He is here and He is good. And no, it doesn’t make sense, but in the center of it, peace is waiting. Our God doesn’t promise a pain-free world, He promises to be right in the middle of the filth with us.
And, there, He is. In the mucky old stable and in Sandy Hook Elementary. Because when we weap, He weaps harder still.
People mutter, “… at Christmas time… all this suffering at Christmas time, what a terrible thing…“
Yes. It is terrible. But, what of Christmas time? What of it? The epicenter of Christmas is CHRIST Himself. If Christ is found anywhere, it is in the midst of unimaginable pain. There He is waiting to be found.
At the lunch table we read truth for all this mess. Boys fidget and a daughter worries about lost children and the candle light blazes.
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble…
You are my lamp, O Lord;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With Your help I can advance against any troop;
with my God I can scale a wall…”
A son’s eye brows raise. Now that’s language he likes… yes, Simon, yes. We want to train you up child – to be in Mighty God’s army. You have a calling. Stop tipping your chair and listen. I smile at my inner ramblings.
So, pain at Christmas, yes. Because although we have a Mighty God, we live in a fallen world. Childen die in schools and children die in Daddy’s arms and children die of starvation every day and they are not honored or remembered. My shoulders shake for the grime of this earth. No, it’s not fair.
The world is a huge, broken sphere and we’re all spinning in the middle of the shrapnel.
The world is in the midst of birth pains, waiting, hoping in deliverance. Those that know Christ know peace because He takes the pain and transforms it into hope. The peace that surpasses all understanding. Yes, I’ve tasted His love and heard His whispers. I understand how incradibly broken everything is and that He is the great Healer.
Christmas. The time we celebrate the Healer’s arrival. He was born in a stable, humble, poor. He came to save us from something. What, then, are we being saved from?
…From the mess of this life. From the muck of this globe. Broken. Dying. Everything is passing away – the scripture says it loud and clear. (Matthew 24)
But hope came down, it’s not just fiction. Please, lean back and close your eyes and let your shoulders shake if they have to because it is real. Christ came, God Himself, incarnated into a baby, born of a virgin – a lowly, unbearably lowly entrance into this broken place. He lived a perfect life, He died a bloody death. He died a sacrifice, so we may be redeemed before a perfect God. We are so flawed, so far from His holiness, yet then, Jesus. Jesus, redeemer. Saviour. Peacemaker. Refuge. Healer. He came down and He rescued us from school shootings and dying babes and starving friends in far away places.
Yes, these things happen, but they will be redeemed. The enemy does not get the last word. This is only phase one. This earth is the beginning of the story. There is more. It continues. Beyond this place, there is another. Our children speak of the other place and hope. We know there is so much more to the story – more we don’t always understand.
“Like Narnia…”, yes Simon, like Narnia. Only better.
Sandy Hook Elementary happens and we talk gun contol and mental health but we should be screaming out, “Redeemer!”
We don’t need more gun control, we need more Jesus.
I listen to Ann Voskamp speak about Christmas and the cross and my heart is warmed and it is revived:
“Ultimately, Christmas isn’t a product we can wrap up, but it’s a person we unwrap… and Christ comes to the cradling trough… but it doesn’t end there… that manger, it’s wood, and it’s nailed together, and that manger takes us right to the cross…. and we are saved only through another tree. That tree from the garden, that tree at the manger, and the tree Jesus hung on to save us. So, unless we’ve got a tree at the center of our Christmas, I don’t think we have a Christmas.”
A whisper of ‘still’ for the soul…