Following tragic events, like the senseless assault on a Connecticut Elementary School last Friday, the question which always seems to arise is where was God in the midst of this tragedy? How could God allow this to happen?
When I heard the first news of the shooting on Friday, I was on a field trip with my daughter’s school. I was part of a group of approximately 60 kindergartners watching the Polar Express at the Omni. As the movie concluded, I glanced down at my phone and noticed news alerts beginning to pop up on my phone.
Sitting there in the midst of what seemed to me like chaos, I watched these innocent children interacting with each other. Laughing, talking, and sharing without a care in the world. Wow! Purely innocent children. My daughter and I went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch on the way home. As she played on the playground I searched for details. As the story unfolded, it was amazing just how meaningful my day with my daughter had become.
Over the past several days, I have spent time reflecting and asking the question of why. Then, while driving home one evening, my attention was drawn to a manger. My attention was drawn to the birth of Christ. In that moment, Hebrews 4:15 began to take on a new meaning for me…
Hebrews 4:15 NIV
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
We have a God who did not spare Jesus the heartache and chaos which we experience. He did not send Him into a comfortable palace to sit on a throne. He sent Him into a world ruled by a tyrant sitting on a throne, into a world of a King fighting for more power and control. Following Herod’s failed attempt to have the Magi deliver the baby who would threaten his kingdom, Herod took matters into his own hands.
Matthew 2:16 NIV
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
The question arises, how could God stand by and do nothing. But, here is the thing, he did do something, He sent his son into the midst of our chaos and suffering. He sent Jesus into a world where power was so important to a man, he would have thousands upon thousands of babies killed, to preserve his desires. Where was God, He was in the midst of our pain, our suffering and our grief. God never promises to pull us out of the suffering but he does promise to walk through it with us. He asks his followers to be his light in this darkness.
This Christmas, as you see the scene of the manger unfolded, in yards throughout our communities, may we not forget, God is truly with us. He is here in the midst of our despair. The manger was an announcement of hope, to a world and a people void of hope. The manger was an announcement to the world,
Matthew 1:23 NIV
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
So how is God with us today? Through the lives of people all around us, who are bringing light into the midst of darkness; who are bringing hope in the midst of despair. So where have I seen God in the midst of this tragedy? With teachers, who’s love for their students was greater than the love they had for themselves. Through Robbie Parker, who lost his precious daughter, and yet someone showed graced to the family of the killer. Through Monsignor Weiss, sitting with and comforting a grieving community. Through the people of Newtown who are walking along each other through unspeakable circumstances.
Immanuel – God with Us