Christmas is an especially lousy time to experience a tragedy. In the turn of a second, the joy of happy preparations gets sucked out of our minds as we cope with the reality of the unexpected. We sadly wonder if we should just shelve Christmas this season. After all, Christmas is supposed to be perfect, unmarred by any trouble, bad memories, contentiousness or family feuds. Right?
Our world was horrified at the inexplicable mass-shooting at a Connecticut elementary school on Dec 14th when twenty children and six adults died senselessly at the hands of an apparently mentally ill young man. To say it is a sad time for those families is an understatement. Their hearts will be scarred for life.
Yet I heard something that doesn’t set well with me. One commentator lamented that twenty six families will be taking down their Christmas decorations this year. Really? If that is so, that would truly be tragic.
Now, before you impulsively throw several pounds of coal my way, hear me through. The whole point of Christmas is that Jesus came to relieve our suffering, to give us hope when life’s tragedies seem senseless, to bring love, forgiveness and justice to a world caught in the throes of evil and lawlessness. Jesus came to provide a way out.
In the classic movie, It’s a Wonderful life, George Bailey grapples with what the world would have been like had he not lived. Imagine for a minute what our world would be like had Jesus not come. We would not have the comfort that those twenty sweet children would now be running through Heaven’s halls, freely, gleefully laughing, discovering, bounding into the arms of a delighted Heavenly Father. We would not have the reassurance that life could be any better or that justice would prevail in the end. We would not have heroes in the form of teachers who followed the example of Jesus in sacrificially giving their lives for the ones they were commissioned to protect.
Without Jesus and the hope of renewal and eternal joy that He brought, it wouldn’t be just a sad season. It would be a season of utter despair and hopelessness. It is through our sorrow that we can truly deeply appreciate the magnitude of God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ. It is out of our darkness that we see the Light. Those families actually have all the more reason to celebrate Christmas this year – because the One who made Christmas possible is the One who brought hope.
Whatever tragic or troubled situation you face this season, don’t give up on Christmas. Don’t stash your decorations – yet. Let the ornaments of Christmas represent what Christ brought with Him when He came to earth that holy night long ago: hope, renewal, the promise of heaven, comfort, joy, light.
Maybe Christmas will take a different form. Maybe the choices of how to celebrate will be altered. But don’t stop celebrating. Let those whose hearts are twisted with tragic loss celebrate with greater passion and fervency, for the Christ of Christmas has delivered us from the darkness and has led us toward the light of hope and salvation.