Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut Tragedy

Such things leave us feeling the darkness of this world.  Especially for those who have lost loved ones, some children, how can they know anything but grief and devastation in their hearts and lives?

At Newtown school gunman forced his way in, police say it is reported:

Dr Jeannie Pasacreta, a nurse practitioner and psychologist who has been advising parents on how to talk to their children, says neighbours have been cancelling Christmas parties and taking down decorations.


Dr Jeannie Pasacreta, a nurse practitioner and psychologist in this picture postcard New England town, told me that neighbours were cancelling Christmas parties and taking down decorations, unable to celebrate amidst such searing grief.

The shock to these families is hard even to begin to estimate.

Again the school’s secular psychologist says:

People are at a loss, said Dr Pasacreta, who believes the lesson of this killing is to give more help to those showing signs of mental illness.

However, there is a much better lesson to be learned, for those who have suffered this tragedy directly, as well as those of us who experience it from a distance.

For those who cannot imagine themselves able “to celebrate amidst such searing grief” and find themselves cancelling Christmas parties and taking down their decorations, it would be very helpful to remember what the Christmas celebration really is.

For what reason was Jesus born into this world?  What did the angels shout and sing to the shepherds?  What did Gabriel announce?

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
  (Matthew 1:20-21)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
  (Luke 2:8-11)

And as prophesied by Simeon:

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
(Luke 2:34-35)

Christmas is the accounting of the birth of the baby boy born into the world to suffer at the hands of evil men, to be tortured to death on their behalf, to save them from their condemned condition as sinners.  The Christmas celebration is the joy that is known through the promise that God Himself took our human flesh so that He would journey to the cross of our salvation.

What lesson should we citizens of the world take from this in conjunction with the Newtown tragedy and every other tragedy in the world?

Surely we should do as this psychologist suggests and seek “more help to those showing signs of mental illness.”  This begins with realizing that we all are showing these signs, due to our fallen and sinful condition.  We all look to the wrong sources for happiness and hope and security and satisfaction, so that we find ourselves hopeless, misdirected, wandering, disappointed, failing, discouraged, depressed, angry, frustrated, and desperate.  All of us are disturbed and need help.

So, then, we should turn to this time when Advent directs us to the promise of the coming Savior.  We should use this time of our grief to understand the ultimate cause of our grief and suffering so that we look to the one who comes to help us, to rescue us, to redeem us, and deliver us.  When we partake of His gifts of grace we receive that which our hearts and souls desperately need and desire, even though we often do not even recognize what it is that we need and desire.  In the celebration of the Advent and Christmas season, we are taught what this is and how God freely gives it.  We hear His tender calling to come and taste and see that He is good.  We hear the heavenly invocation to come and adore Him and receive Him as our gracious and saving King.

Will this take away all of the pain that the parents of these murdered children endure?  No.  But it will fill them with the grace and peace of God that overpowers this pain and makes it no longer what rules their lives.  The pain of the loss remains.  But the promise yet to be realized is far greater.

Is there more to this lesson?  Yes, there is.  We surely should learn not to ignore the fact that none of us knows the length of life in this world that has been granted to each of us.  We each should eagerly run to the fount of life, where God regenerates us through water and Spirit to be made to be members of His kingdom.  We should not delay to bring our little children to this washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, so that they are made safe in Christ’s body and are made to be regular partakers of His Holy Communion.  Then, both they and we are filled with the peace of knowing that together we are kept safe in Christ Jesus.  Then, when tragedy strikes, even in the midst of our shock and woe and fear and heartache, we nevertheless will rejoice in the comfort that came down from heaven as a little baby boy who is Jesus, God’s salvation for us.

For those whose children are baptized, the Christmas lights and decorations still can be viewed as reminders of God’s great promises, even as He promised that the descendants of Abraham would be like the number of the stars in the sky, and as reminders of the great light of God’s glory that shown round the angels as they announced the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem.  The world has usurped much of this and used it contrary to what is salutary, but God’s promises still shine for us, even in the darkest of nights.

This is why God has ordained Baptism.  This is why He also ordained the Holy Supper.  This is how He gives us great cause for celebration even in this world of darkness and suffering and terror.  No one can take away what God grants to us through these blessed Sacraments.

Take they our life,
goods, fame, child, and wife,
let these all be gone,
they yet have nothing won;
the Kingdom ours remaineth.

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