I want Christmas, too

Published 9:24 pm Friday, December 14, 2012

By Rev. Chris Surber

I don’t know what makes a man become a devil. What I do know is that my eyes are growing dim from looking upon so much sorrow.

Actually “sorrow” barely begins to capture the essence of the pain of yesterday’s school shooting in Connecticut. Calling that pain sorrow is a bit like calling the ocean a large pond. Words fail to capture, contain or carry along the crushing of the parents’ hearts, the tremor felt in that community or the aftershock of aching that will result from these events.

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Through tears, my wife and I watched the news as we heard how first-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig, 29, locked her 14 students in a class bathroom and listened to “tons of shooting” until police came to help.

She said the terrified children were saying, “I just want Christmas. I don’t want to die. I just want to have Christmas.”

I have no doubt that even veteran first responders are reeling from what they’ve seen at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the first moments of this kind of tragedy, even alert people will often not realize what is happening for several seconds and then go into shock upon realization. How long does it take for a kindergartner to realize what’s happening? And when she does, can she know anything but abject terror?

I’m scared, too. I’m afraid for a culture that seems to produce with such ease people capable of such monstrous viciousness. My heart is heavy with a kind of painful longing, a sort of desensitized longing, to see where all of this violence and confusion will take us as a people.

I want to have Christmas, too. It’s just around the corner. In fact, at just about the same time of day while my kids were celebrating the nearness of Christmas by moving the mitten on our family Christmas countdown chart, children in Connecticut were fearing for the lives and begging for the chance to celebrate Christmas at all. I want Christmas, too.

I want to believe God can see through the fog of misery and tragedy that so often covers this life. I believe His gaze is not dimmed like mine by the sting of rampant evil in the world, that ultimately He will crush the pain so common in this life. I have hope because of this: In the Christmas child, God descended into a world of sorrow to put the glimmer of His love and mercy on display against the stark black backdrop of evil and grief.

I want Christmas, too, because in the Christ child, God walked among men in their affliction. He is no stranger to our pain. I want Christmas, because in the manger in Bethlehem hope was born, healing was offered.

I need the mystery of Christmas because of the realities of this life. Of all that I don’t and cannot know, I know this: Christ is not hidden from us in sorrow. He is found in it. The love of God abounds in it.

I just want Christmas too.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV)