Meditation on a Christmas Massacre


Massacre of the Innocents and Flight to Egypt – Sainte Chapelle, Paris

The problem with writing about a mass shooting in the USA is that before you can say anything worthwhile, there will be another one.

Are we surprised?

Do we feel it anymore?

We haven’t been able to blush for a long time. Have we now lost the ability to mourn?

There’s no time for grief. Reporters have to count bodies. Cameras have to capture souls. And our politicians have to tweet.

Yes, there’s work to do. We have to name the problem and give our answer. Or simply defend ourselves from someone else’s.

And there are plenty of those.

Restrict guns. Restrict a religion. Reform immigration. Recycle.

But whatever the rhetoric, everyone has a simple solution. Or so they think.

Oliver Wendall Holmes once extolled the value of a simple answer, when he said, “For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”

A Different Kind of Simple

Today we would say that he saw the difference between simple and simplistic. The simplistic answer is a hungry college student with a microwave and a box of Kraft Mac’N’Cheese who says she can cook.

The simple answer, however, is a trained chef who understands food and can make a better pancake breakfast with a hot plate than the college student could in a commercial kitchen. Holmes cared nothing for the one-sided opinion, but he pined for the single verdict that accounted for all the evidence.

When we say we can fix a culture of death by writing laws or carrying guns, we are being simplistic. There are too many variables. Some killers are Muslim, some are white Southern males. Some are mentally disturbed, some are quite sane. Some have a political agenda, some religious, some personal. A lot live in Colorado, but some don’t.

The only thing they have in common is that they’re evil people with guns.

As for the guns… Good luck with that. Certainly mass shootings are easier and deadlier with readily available, high-capacity firearms. Certainly millions of Americans would rather keep their guns and take their chances.

Guns aren’t the problem – whether you want them confiscated or carried. That’s simplistic.

The problem is simple.

The problem is evil. When we consider all the people, all the guns, all the laws, we find evil at the bottom. Despite diverse races and religions, no matter the age or era, we find men and women bent on destroying one another.

Some will call that simplistic because it’s a problem without a solution. Something we can’t fix because it’s part of us. Something that doesn’t lead to a committee, a bill, a plan, an initiative, a referendum, or even a speech. But an insurmountable problem is still a problem! Do we really think that we can fix everything?

Which brings us to God.

Is God Fixing It?

Recently, one periodical ran a headline calling for action with the words, “God isn’t fixing this!” The editors implied that people avoid helpful action by offering prayers. And some do. Some politicians pose for evangelicals, and some evangelicals have never considered working to change anything. Sometimes we talk about prayer just to make other people feel better.

But that only means we abuse prayer (not necessarily prayer as it is, but the word itself). It says nothing about God, though we may still ask, “Is God fixing this?”

Is he?

Cable Says No

The media suggests he’s not. Or won’t. Or can’t.

But the same media 2000 years ago might have only reported an unusual wandering star. Cable anchors would complain about a tyrannical government forcing the relocation of peasants to enroll in a government accountability program. Conspiracy sites might claim that a delegation of Iranian ambassadors met secretly with the king. Reporters would interview representatives from the “Jewish Lives Matter” movement and their unlikely coalition with the pro-life advocates for the rights of the just-born. Facebook would debate the wisdom of arming citizens. Headlines would blaze with Herod’s brutal order to murder all boys younger than 2.

No one would have noticed a teenage girl giving birth in a room crowded with barnyard animals, nor would any have believed her claim that she was still a virgin. No one cared that the small family applied for refugee status in Egypt a few days afterwards. Political succession overshadowed any notice of their return a few years later. And their child grew up much as any other in a disreputable town, save for his uncommon devotion to God.

The first Christmas was unremarkable.

Christmas Says Yes

But in a complex world ruined by simple evil, God became man, and Jesus was born to save his people from their sins. Many wondered why God wasn’t “fixing” it, but in their very midst – Immanuel, God with us – he was.

He didn’t come to challenge Herod or Caesar but Evil itself. After confronting it at every level of society, in an act that merited only a few inches in the local papers, he chained himself to it and died. Within three days, the government was paying people to say he didn’t rise again.

From Christmas to Easter, God was defanging the serpent. Ever since then, he’s been drawing the venom out of every person who submits to the procedure. He defeated Evil and offers total restoration to every human heart that will receive his grace. One day, the process will be complete: Evil – and those who prefer it – will be banished for eternity, while the children of God will enter the glory of true holiness.

For now, America doesn’t have a problem with guns, it has a problem with evil. Maybe guns are the last things we want in the hands of evil people. Maybe evil people are the last people we want governing our nation and making its laws. Maybe evil people can’t understand that the power driving a Muslim to kill is the same power that drives an executive to rob his shareholders, a candidate to sacrifice his integrity for an election, an evangelist to sleep with dozens of adoring disciples, or a doctor to destroy a life while safely nestled in the womb.

It’s simple. It’s Evil.

And the answer is simple too. His name is Jesus, and he came to fix it.

Christmas is just the beginning.

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