I’ve started this and deleted the first sentence about twenty-six times in the last thirty minutes. Because sometimes there just aren’t words. Or as Forrest Gump says, “Sometimes there aren’t enough rocks”. I don’t write about current events very much. Not because I don’t care, but because I usually want this to be a place where we can laugh and try to find the lighter side of life.
But right now that place seems hard to find.
If you had asked me on Friday morning what I was going to write about on Monday, I’d have told you it was going to be all about the last six days we’ve spent in New York with Mimi and Bops and my sister and her family. And there is so much to tell.
It was precious time spent with people I love. Getting to show Caroline the city of New York at Christmastime will go down as one of my favorite memories ever. Especially Friday morning when we went to visit Santa Claus at Macy’s on 34th Street. Watching her face light up as she told him what she wanted and Santa taking the extra time to discuss the Percy Jackson books she’s currently reading made it one of those magical moments I’ll remember always. It was one of those rare times when real life surprises you with so much joy.
And I guess that’s part of why I couldn’t stop the tears when we made it back to our hotel later that afternoon and I learned the full extent of what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary. Because while I was watching Caroline and my niece, Sarah, experience the very best of childhood magic and wonder, there was a school of precious littles, just sixty miles away, experiencing horror beyond comprehension.
Honestly, I don’t even think I can let my mind fully go there or I may never be able to get out of bed again. It’s too much. Too much sadness, too much agony, too much hurt.
As a parent, I hear bad stories and tend to mentally list all the reasons that could never happen to Caroline. I pay attention. I don’t leave her at home alone. I don’t let her walk down the block without watching to make sure she arrives safely at her destination. I make sure I know everyone she comes in contact with in the course of a day.
But what happened Friday shatters any illusion we have of being in control. Those parents dropped their babies off for a day at school. A day that should have been filled with learning how to use verbs in a sentence or adding numbers or eating paste like every other elementary school kid. And the unfathomable happened.
And now there are Christmas presents that will sit unopened, and hearts that are forever broken, and lives that will always bear the scars of a cold Friday in December that was probably filled just hours earlier with weekend plans to look at Christmas lights and visit Santa and drink hot chocolate.
I don’t have any answers because I don’t think we’ll understand as long as we’re here on earth. But here’s what I do know.
I know that this is not our home. I know that there is a God in heaven who is good and faithful and true even when nothing makes sense. And I know that we live in a fallen world filled with sorrow and tragedy and madmen capable of terrible things.
I know that there is no better time than Christmas to remember that God sent his son into the world to save us all from darkness and sin and certain death. And that 2000 years ago, the cry of a baby was a holy roar letting evil forever know that weeping may last for a night, but joy will come in the morning.
One of the parts of the Christmas story that’s often swept under the rug is the mass murder of innocent children at the hands of a crazed King Herod that caused Joseph and Mary to flee with Jesus to Egypt. There’s no way to make that look pretty. No way to dress that up as part of the manger scene with wise men and shepherds and maybe a cow for good measure.
Yet it’s there. In all its ugliness and darkness. But it’s easier to deal with because there is time and distance. It’s part of history. There aren’t pictures of those precious faces all over Facebook, but they, too, were babies whose lives were cut tragically short and left behind parents filled with unimaginable grief.
The truth is our world is filled with darkness and always has been. Satan comes to steal and kill and destroy. And what feels more destructive and violent than innocent lives, who embody the very tenderness of God, filled with so much light and promise and possibility with freckles across their sweet faces?
I know that we are called to be a light in a dark world. And, as much as something like this makes me want to wrap my whole family in protective bubble wrap and spend the rest of our days within the walls of our home, we are called to spread the love of Christ and share that there is hope and redemption and peace and purpose beyond what we can imagine right now. Jesus came in the form of a helpless baby, but he won’t come back that way.
He’ll come as a conqueror. And evil will be vanquished forever.
On the plane ride home, I heard the lyrics from “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day” and they fell fresh on me.
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
That’s the very heart of what Christmas is all about.
Our hearts are broken for you, Newton, Connecticut. You are in prayers. And we weep for your babies.