Advent from Bethlehem to Newtown

"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more," Matthew 2:18 (NIV).

I don’t care for Advent. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jesus and I’m thankful God saves every sin-sick heart that will accept Him. But God didn’t write the Bible the way I wish he had. It’s packed with disturbing events I’d prefer never happened. I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking. Have you ever watched a church Christmas play that continued through Matthew 2, past the worship to the mass murder and fleeing? Me neither.

Each December, that’s where my thoughts turn. I think of the mothers in Bethlehem and the surrounding area whose young sons were killed by an evil, insecure, power-hungry ruler. I wonder about these women. They grew old without their children. They watched Jesus’ public ministry. How many of them came to faith? How many separated the actions of sinful man from those of a holy and loving God? What if my precious toddler, just learning to walk and to turn babble into words, were taken from me? What would I think of the man he was murdered for? Would it matter to me that the man never wanted or asked for such an action? Would I recognize him as my Savior?

It’s not idle wondering. Frail with Parkinson’s disease, my mother doesn’t yet share the faith that defines my life. Mom has repeated one story to me several times. Born in 1932, she was just a kid at the start of World War II. In her Brooklyn neighborhood, children taunted my Jewish mother. They told her she killed Jesus. They said Hitler’s actions toward the Jews were good. My mom knows intellectually that these kids were cruel and stupid. She knows the actions of people are different and separate from the actions of God. Still, those childhood jeers left an emotional wound so deep she’s not inclined to consider God. And even if she would, behind the gibes remains the puzzle of an omnipotent God who did not stop the murder of most of my grandmother’s family and that of 12 million others.

I’ve read plenty of apologetics concerning the problem of evil. Why does a good God allow it? This side of heaven, we cannot fully understand. While I can offer some theologically sound rationale, it remains inadequate to address the pain of the mothers in Bethlehem or that of my own mother. Mothers and fathers in Newtown will spend this Advent burying their 6 and 7-year-old sons and daughters. It should not be so.

The night of the tragedy in Connecticut, my 15-year-old son and I stayed up late, each absorbed in our own tasks. Quietly he said, “It’s sad, what happened today.” Then a bit later, “You know that song, ‘Blessed be Your Name’? Where it says,

You give and take away.

You give and take away.

My heart will choose to say,

Blessed be Your Name.

I never really thought about what that means before.”

I didn’t have any profound explanation to offer my son, much as I don’t have one to offer my mom or the parents in Newtown. What I did have to give was my presence. My kid knows I grieve with him. He sees how deeply what happened in Newtown affects all of us. We pray for my many cousins who were born and raised there. We pray especially for my cousin Sue, who works as a Children’s Director for a Newtown church. We pray that her presence will be a comfort to those around her. In a world that prioritizes action, solutions, achieving objectives and all other things measurable, believers sometimes forget the power of simply being there.

The power of presence surprises us. Often at the times when we have the fewest answers, we most feel the Holy Spirit’s presence. We cannot conjure by our own power the peace that passes understanding, but God guards our hearts and minds with it. We need to pray that God would transfer awareness of his presence to those around us who don’t know him yet. Sin in this world makes us long for the time when it will be swept away, finally, completely, and with righteous judgment. We wait, as God adds daily to his number those saved from that judgment. While we wait, we need to plead that the search for answers we can fathom be superseded and quieted by the One who is the Answer.

 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, God with us," Matthew 1:23.

About the Author: Holly Ramsey is a writer and homeschool mother of five living in Naperville, IL. You can read her blog at fromdiaperstodriversed.blogspot.com.