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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Horror, Hype and Handel

Like many people, I woke up thinking about the massacre in Newtown. I sat glued to the TV yesterday, watching the horrors unfold in waves, wanting to tear away from it all and pretend it wasn't happening, but at the same time needing to watch.

I am disappointed (actually, infuriated) by some of the insensitive things said by Christian leaders about this. Can we please just sit with these poor people in their grief and SHUT UP!?!?! The friends of Job are often made fun of (justifiably so) for their bad advice to Job in his abject suffering, but for the first seven days, they got it right:

When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. (Job 2:12-13). 

To do anything else -- say, use this as an opportunity to talk about prayer in the schools or how we are all murderers smacks of insensitive and opportunistic hype to me.

I'm grateful for my own pastor's words this morning... as always, they are gentle, knowing and subdued. Take 2 minutes to read them.

Newtown and Bethlehem

I woke early with the sorrow of Newtown.  The grief is overwhelming.  The loss is beyond any words or consolation.

I know that you have already joined the thousands who filled the churches of Newtown to pray.  We naturally turn to God in such moments not only in seeking comfort but also with our outrage that such innocent lives would be allowed to be taken.  What kind of world do we live in?  When will all this killing end?  How long will our Lord wait until making all things new - and giving us "right minds" where we truly do have a "Newtown" with a new Jerusalem and true peace on earth?  This juxtaposition of evil with the message of Christmas is not lost on any of us.

I've always been bothered by the Christmas story told in Matthew where Herod's angry insanity caused him to order the death of the baby boys in Bethlehem so he could end the life of the young rival king the Wisemen came to worship.  The grief of those parents undoubtedly mirrored the ones of today.  The juxtaposition of evil with God's gift of His own Son is not lost on any of us as well.

Evil in all its various forms is most obvious when it is the innocent who suffer and often die.  That is why the birth and death of the innocent child of Bethlehem speaks deeper than the words any of us can say.  That is why comfort is found only in God.  God is with us.  That is why the churches of Newtown are filled.

My thoughts take me to Handel's music and the words of Isaiah 40. 

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned:  for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low;  and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain;

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;  for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

When Handel wrote the music to communicate God's word his servants described him:  "He was praying...he was weeping...he was staring into eternity." 

That is what we are all doing.


Per Denny's advice, I am listening to Handel's Messiah this morning as I write this. May we continue to pray for those in Newtown, and pray that as believers we can offer persistent love, a listening ear and compassion to others in their loss and fear. There will be time in the future to take the conversation to bigger and more personal levels. Be patient. Here's an article I wrote this fall on comforting others in grief.

Meanwhile, I yearn for the "new town" of eternity to come quickly:

He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

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