As a teacher - indeed, as a person, but especially as a teacher - my heart breaks over the sudden and senseless loss of life in that small Connecticut town. Over two dozen families had an empty seat at the dinner table this weekend. There are twenty empty seats and six empty desks at Sandy Hook Elementary School this week. The President of the United States shed tears during his brief press conference.
What to make of it all? Naturally, the blogosphere and editorial pages were focused on this tragedy over the past few days, and this Monday morning, the reactions continued. I wondered whether I should post this collection of highlights from the many pieces I had read. After all, if we focus too much on what happened, does that not mean that the shooter has won? Would not "Monday as usual" prove our resiliency in the face of tragedy?
There is a fine line between resiliency and callousness, or pretending it did not happen. My opinion is that it is still the appropriate time for reflection, even if we do resume our normal routines this Monday. Certainly the families - and community - of Newtown need the prayers of their country. I offer, as an aid to understanding the tragedy, the following words from blogs and articles:
- Saturday morning, Jeremy Weber of Christianity Today highlighted the responses to that point to the tragedy.
- Two editorials of note from the Chicago Tribune: "Humbled by Our Helplessness"and "The Innocents"
- Also from the Tribune, Patricia Callahan's piece, "Covering the Unimaginable" (Ms. Callahan was on staff of the Denver Post during Columbine)
- Ross Douthat of The New York Times writes a response that draws on themes of literature and the Bible
- Pastor Josh Moody offers "A Christmas Response to Newtown"
- On a related note (and beginning with the same passage of Scripture), Mark Galli of Christianity Today writes that the fallen are "not alone, nor without hope."
- Kathleen Nielson of The Gospel Coalition addresses "Where Shall We Put This Grief?"
Also, these words from a Wheaton student have been circulating on Facebook (originally posted on Friday):
Dr. Ryken gave a powerful and relevant sermon this morning in chapel about the ‘dark side of the Christmas story’ otherwise known as the Massacre of the Innocent, in which King Herod ordered the murder of every boy under the age of two in Bethlehem. He gave this sermon justan hour before news broke of the massacre in Newtown Connecticut in which 20 children and 6 adults were murdered. He spoke about the grief of the [mothers] in Bethlehem as well as the grief of Rachel from the book of Jeremiah, whose child had also been senselessly murdered [Rachel, wife of Jacob, died giving birth to Benjamin, as recorded in Genesis; in Jeremiah 31, the prophet metaphorically references Rachel 'weeping' for her descendants]. Dr. Ryken spoke about the ‘tidings of comfort and joy’ and the promises that those enduring unimaginable suffering can hold onto. Considering the terrible news we received this morning just after chapel, I thought I’d share some powerful [quotations] from this morning’s message:
“When God tells you to dry your tears as He told Rachel to dry her tears, He’s not saying ‘there, there, everything will be [all right].’ He’s promising to make things right. The comfort He offers is real comfort, the Joy He gives is real Joy! The weeping may last for the night but when the morning comes it is full of song.”
“This is why we were made, to give praise to God. And it is also the reason why Christmas is such a glorious time of the year. Our lives, perhaps, have been touched with sorrow. We are aware of at least some of the sorrows of our own community. But somehow the joy of Jesus breaks through. As we worship with the people of God, we find comfort in our grief. May that be God’s comfort for you this Christmas season if you are burdened with heavy trials.”
“I praise God that the Bible talks about the dark side of the Christmas story which speaks to all our sadness, but even more, for the promise of His comfort, which came to us at the first Christmas in the person of Jesus Christ who is our joy forever and ever.”
After horrific days like today and especially during the Christmas season, ‘tidings of comfort and joy’ may seem unrealistic or maybe even insulting to some. But we must take hope because these tidings ARE REAL and they are offered by someone who loves each and every one of us more than we could ever imagine! It is days like today that we must lift our hands, despite our suffering and incredible loss, praising God for His redeeming work in the world and always continuing to sing: COME LORD JESUS! COME!
Lord Jesus, be the refuge and strength that only you can be for the families of the fallen in Newtown, Connecticut. Reveal yourself to them and be near to them in the hard days ahead.