Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown--Will There Ever Be Another Christmas?

 She looked up from the wrapping paper and bows and stacks of presents on Christmas morning and said: “Will there ever be another Christmas?” She was five years old and knew, deep in her heart, that it would never get better than this.

Little children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut are asking that question. They’ve been to too many funerals this week. They have shuffled to their children’s rooms in the dark nights and heard them crying and scared of nightmares. Some of these parents wonder what will they do with those packages under the tree—their little boy or girl is gone forever. They have cried so much that they don’t have any tears left.

People all over our town are wondering if there will ever be another Christmas. Not only because of those terrible scenes that come from Connecticut. Somebody lost a loved one this year and they dread the thought of Christmas day. Somebody lost a job and this whole festive season has had a hollow ring. Somebody’s marriage is falling apart. Somebody woke up yesterday morning and the house was like all the other days of the year: empty and cold.  Somebody nurses a hangover so severe that they couldn’t get out of bed until the next afternoon. Somebody will not be home from Iraq—her orders were extended. Somebody lies in a hospital bed scared of the future. Somebody finds this season cruel—there is not enough money for the kids’ presents.

Will there ever be another Christmas? We all ask it when tragedy walks down our street and knocks on our door. If you study the old story closely you will know that we have glossed over the dark side of the real Christmas. Herod, the old mad king was consumed with jealousy when he heard of the birth of the Messiah. He ordered every male baby two years and younger killed. Blood ran through the streets that Christmas time as it has run this year in Newtown. We forget the manger was not like our crèches in our homes and churches. The manger was where the cattle were fed and the not-so-holy family had to step around steaming dung as they shivered in that drafty barn on that back street. When the family took Jesus to be circumcised on the eighth day, old watery-eyed Simeon addressed the young mother. He told Mary that this baby’s coming was not all joy. Old Simeon said that a sword would pierce her soul before it was over. Later Joseph, the young father, was so frightened that the baby would be killed that he took his little family and fled to Egypt one dark night.

This was the soil out of which the first Christmas came. Hard days, dark days. Days of trouble and misery. This was the setting of the greatest story ever told. Our trouble is that we have tried to gloss it over with silver bells and endless shopping. But the real Christmas takes us all in—those children in Afghanistan huddled in some corner. They have never known anything but war and destruction and death. It takes in all the brokenness in our lives and those around us.

 Nothing stops the power of Christmas. No pain is so great, no difficulty so cumbersome that we need miss the wonder of these days.  The Christmas story says that the shepherds returned, praising God for all they had seen and heard. As we move closer to Christmas day some of us might find it hard to sing the carols and enter into and the wonder of the season. Yet perhaps we shall find what others have found. That the old book is right after all. There is darkness aplenty—yet at the heart of it all is this incredible light which nothing can ever put out. And that’s why there will always be a Christmas. 

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