Every weekday morning, I drop our oldest son Jim off at his elementary school. I unbuckle his seat belt. He leans over into the front and gives me a hug. If he forgets that hug, he will climb back in the car to give it to me. I tell him that I love him and I hope he has a good day. A teacher helps him out of the car and shuts the door. Some days, he'll smile and wave as I drive off.
Some days that drop off doesn't happen so smoothly. Some days he has a bad attitude or doesn't want to go to school for some reason or another. But more often than not, he smiles and is ready to go. On those days, it feels like the future is being born. My son radiates with hope and possibility. And I think the world is going to be okay.
Three years ago today, a man went into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. He killed 20 children, 6 adults, and then was killed himself. That tragedy has become more devastating to me as time has gone on; as my oldest has hit the age of some of the children killed on that horrible day. And I think that this world is a cruel and terrible place.
I am not going to pretend I know what those parents went through. My imagination thankfully cannot go far enough to get an idea. But I know my world would be totally and utterly shattered. Because as much as children eat up your time, for all the times they can be annoying or talk back at you, they are your heart. My sons are my heart and losing them would be like losing my heart. And I would rage at God with everything I have.
The terrible story that stares us in the face during Advent and Christmas is the Massacre of the Infants. Herod, remorseless and power-hungry tyrant he is, slaughters every child under two in and around Bethlehem because the magi didn't tell him where Jesus was. Matthew tells us that this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah. And I want to grab Matthew by his cloak.
Why would such a horrible thing happen? Scripture is being fulfilled left and right according to Matthew. Why this? Why did the magi need to come to Herod, to Bethlehem? We could have avoided articles about how our nativity scenes are wrong for ages. But even more so, those children would not have died! Those parents would not have mourned! Scripture fulfilled. It makes me want to swear. And it makes me furious at God.
I know this is how screwed up the world is. I know Sandy Hook and Herod's massacre are creation wailing in pain. But, God, I hate it. I hate it being part of our story. I hate the way it stains this beautiful time of year. I hate it for the fear it sows within me that this world could destroy my heart. And I know God hates it too.
I just hope...I don't what I hope. I hope it stops? I do hope that. I hope God makes it stop. I hope God instills courage in me, in others, in my sons to be lights in the darkness in the meantime. That's all I can cling to right now: hope.