AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hick
Christmas is often characterized as a time of great cheer. It is a long-awaited happy season when we look forward to good times with family and friends, to gifts, to good food. And it’s all fitting, because we should be celebrating in a way that is worthy of the King of Kings. But this year, our Christmas preparation is stained with the blood of twenty children and seven adults when a twenty-year-old man walked into an elementary school and fired guns at them. Where is God in all of this? Why did God allow this to happen?
All this has happened before
|1611 painting by Guido Reni (1572-1642)|
Sometime after the birth of Christ, King Herod the Great was visited by magi from the east. Herod saw himself as the only king of Judea, and will kill anyone, including members of his own family, if he sees him or her as a threat to his throne. So when he was told by the magi and his own scribes that the long-awaited Messiah, the prophesied King of the Jews, was born, he lied to the magi to have them help him find the child and then move to kill him. But the magi were warned by an angel to not return to Herod, and so went home by a different road. When Herod heard this, he was furious and ordered the killing of every male child in the Bethlehem area – two years old and below, to coincide with what the magi told him. And so it was done. (Matthew 2:1-18)
But the question remained: Why did God allow this to happen? Those murdered children had nothing to do with the boy Jesus, except that they were roughly the same age. They were no threat to Herod. They were innocents.
Where was God?
The most oft-asked question in the face of tragedy is “Where was God?” The answer, at least in this case, is in one of the names given to the promised Messiah – Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23) Where was God when the boys of Bethlehem were being murdered? He was among them who were marked for death. He was being pursued by a malevolent king who would see no one as king except himself. God, in Jesus, suffered with those who were killed, though He escaped death because His time has not yet come. But His time did come, and He went to the cross willingly so that He might bring the Kingdom where innocents no longer had to die.
Where was God in the Connecticut Massacre? He was among those who died, taking upon Himself the evil that this world would throw upon innocents. He was among the surviving children, suffering the trauma of seeing beloved friends and teachers killed. He was among the parents of the dead children, mourning and grieving the death of those closest to their hearts. He was among the parents of the surviving children, cherishing them all the more and offering up thanksgiving for sparing their children. He was among all the people who sympathized with those who lost loved ones, extending love and comfort when they needed it most. Above it all, He is on His throne, holding on to His promise of returning to fully establish His kingdom where no more innocents will suffer or die. And He longs to return, even as His heart breaks for every tragedy that happens.