Over the past few weeks, I've seen a number of family & friends share on facebook photos, even videos, of joyous family times, putting up their Christmas tree. Christmas, as the song goes "it's the most wonderful time of the year". That has all changed in a most horrific way for family, friends, front-line responders and the community in general in Connecticut today with the school shooting tragedy. It has impacted not just that community, but individuals communities across America and around the world. One of the burning questions in all of this is where is God ? Why didn't he act to stop this violence ? Why doesn't he stop all violence?
In the lead up to Christmas some people have an advent Christmas calendar, where each day you open up a little door to reveal a treat, usually a sweet or chocolate. But for some Advent is much more that this, it's a Latin term that simply refers to the concept of 'coming', and is a time to reflect upon and prepare for the coming of Christ. For some faith traditions it is a time period on the church calendar in which you focus on specific scripture readings, for others faith traditions, it is a little less formal, and maybe not even considered a tradition as such, and may be a time where some choose to reflect on the Christmas story in their personal time with God as they read the scriptures in the lead up to Christmas.
It is in these pages of the scriptures, as we reflect on Christ’s first coming, the nativity story, that we being to get our first glimpses’ into where is God in the midst of such a tragic event. For the story begs us to ask why did he come, why would God come into the world as a little baby ?. The answer to that, as you may well know, takes us all the way back to the beginning of the bible, and the story of another tree, not a Christmas tree, but the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you are not familiar with this period of time, or it’s been some time since you read about it, you can read the narrative in Genesis 2:4-3:24. In Genesis 1:1-2:3 we read of God as the creator and thus his authority to set the boundaries for his creation is established. In the Genesis 2 through to the end of chapter 3, we read first of humanity living in creation as God intended, until humanity acts in a way which usurped God’s right to set the rules. The fellowship was broken, sin entered the world, and it only takes us to get to Genesis 4:1-16 before we see the first murder, and as we read through to Genesis 11, we continue to see the downward spiral and consequences of humanity deciding to do life without God. It is here we see how we end up with tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook elementary school, and the many similar events that occur all to regularly.
And this is the backdrop of Jesus first advent. God did not want to leave his relationship with humanity in a broken state. He wanted to restore that relationship with humanity. He wanted to see an end to event’s like Cain murdering able, and he wants’ to see an end to the mass murders we see happening today. Most of all he want’ us to once again acknowledge him as God, acknowledge his sovereignty and his right to establish the boundaries. We have tried it on our own, and look where it has got us.
So how did his advent work out? What happened to that cute little baby in the manger ? Well Jesus knew how it was going to work out, before it even happened. In Mark’s gospel he tells a story to the Jewish leaders which illustrates how it was all about to unfold. You can find it in Mark 12:1-12. It’s the parable of the Tenants. In short the owner of a vineyard sent a number of servant’s to the tenants of the vineyard to collect to some of the produce, but each time they killed the servant. Finally the owner, having had enough, decided to intervene by sending his own Son to sort out the situation. What did the tenants do ? They killed the owner’s son.
It wasn't long after telling this story to the Jewish leaders, they began the pot to kill Jesus. God is the owner of the vineyard, we are the tenants. We might ask where is God in the events of Sandy Hook, the truth is God has already acted, he has already intervened. And how did we respond, like the tenant’s at the vineyard, we killed God’s son, we hung him on a tree. Not like putting an Angel a top of a Christmas tree, no we nailed him to a Cross and hung him out to die, on a cursed tree.
But God did not leave it there, he rose Jesus from the dead so that sin would be defeated. When we put our faith in Jesus, we are cleansed by the blood that Christ shed on the cross for us. Humanity may have thought they were once again upspring God’s right to rule in killing his son, but God had a plan all along. His plan is still in play today.
The consequences of man’s rebellion back in Genesis 3 are still being felt, but because of Christ’s first advent, we wait in hope for his second advent. In Revelation 21:12 Jesus says ““Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” Following event’s like this that soon come can’t come quick enough. For if we have put our trust in Christ we will return to life as God meant it to be, as it was in the Garden in Genesis 2. And “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21: 4). And we will find here another tree – not a Christmas tree - but one that was first mentioned back in Genesis, the tree of life (Genesis 2:9; Revelation 22:2).
Be encouraged God has acted, and continues to act and will bring and end to man’s sin. We just don’t’ know when, Deuteronomy 29:29 speaks of the secret things belonging to God. But the same verse speaks of the things he has revealed, these things belong to us. And they are the message we are to take to a world that needs to repent before God. God has acted, God is giving humanity a chance to respond before he brings and end once and for all to those who reject his rule.
- Initially in response to Columbine, and later refined to responds to the events of 7/11, Desiring God put together an article on how to minister to people following such a tragedy.
- A friend, a theological student, and candidate for full time ministry, with a background in Journalism and Public relations has responded with all of those hats plus that of a father of a young child in sharing his thoughts on Answering the why of tragedy and the who of stopping it over at his blog St Eutychus.
- And the crew over at Defending,Contending have asked “What will we learn?”.
- Or maybe you just want some ideas on how to pray. You can get Prayers of Hope in Times of Calamity from Navpress. View the sample online or order a pack of 50 to share in your congregation.
- Kurt Michaelson is one of the many Christian men and women seeking to minister to his community during this time. Read a little bit about his experiences over at his blog
There has no doubt and will continue to be much more written on this topic. Why not share what articles you have found helpful in relation to this specific event or topic in the comments section below.
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