The following is the intro to the sermon I preached on 12/16/12 shortly after the mass murder of Sandy Hook Elementary. It addresses why I think Christmas is more important now than at any time in my life. If you'd like to hear the sermon in its entirety, you can listen to it at: http://firstfreerockford.org/sermons.htm#2012
Good Morning Everyone. As you know, a tragedy occurred in Connecticut that has shaken our nation. As a father of four, my heart is very heavy. I’ve felt shock, rage, frustration, and an almost unbearable sense of sadness for the families that lost those children. I don’t know about you, but I can barely watch the news. I saw a picture of a mother and father in the aftermath that immediately caused me to weep because their despair was so evident. I’ve been crying daily over all of this. How about you? Has this hit you as hard as it has me? It’s a terrible, terrible national wound.
You know, this morning, I was going to give you a cheerful Christmas message. It was going to be fun and engaging and inspiring. But after what happened on Friday (which, by the way, I heard about right after I preached at our Mother’s Day Out program and was with little kids) I decided to change this message. I even considered not preaching about Christmas at all because, what does mass murder have to do with Christmas? Right? How do you reconcile this horrific event with Christmas? That seems impossible.
But then it occurred to me. The first Christmas was not as peaceful as we tend to think. In actuality, the first Christmas was also surrounded by a tremendous amount of violence. In Rev. 12, we’re told that when Jesus was born, Satan himself tried to destroy Him. The text describes Satan as a murderous fiery dragon, a monster, who, on that first Christmas, tried to devour the Christ child. We’re told in the Gospel of Matthew that one of the ways Satan tried to do this was through the mass murder of children. Right after the wise men visit Jesus, King Herod issues an executive order that all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem be killed. And a massacre occurs, but Jesus survives.
When we celebrate Christmas, we tend to ignore the mass murder associated with Christ’s birth and the cruel, demonic creature intent on destroying all things precious and good in the world. I’ve seen many Nativity scenes. I’ve seen Mary and Joseph and the baby and the star. I’ve seen shepherds and sheep and wise men. But I’ve never seen in the background a massive dragon seething with filth and wickedness murdering children. That is, until Friday. We saw him at Sandy Hook and we’ve all been traumatized.
However, I want to tell you something else we will see in the days ahead. Just like at the first Christmas and at the first Easter, there may have been a monster, but there was also a King. And, like at the first Christmas and the first Easter, the King will win. I agree with one commentator who said, “Jesus didn’t go to that school with guns, but He will go to those families and all who have suffered loss.” And I guarantee you He did go to those children and this season, they are celebrating Christmas not by a manger, but in a Mansion in Heaven. Jesus wins and will win again. And that’s why Christmas, maybe more than any other time in my life, is so crucial. Christmas tells us that no matter how evil or horrendouos our world becomes, Christ wins and will win again. If He came the first time, He will keep His promise and come the second time and all this mess will be cleaned up. And, just as He defeated evil through love, we too must defeat evil today through love. This Christmas, spread more love than usual. Touch the world with the reality of a God that conquers death and takes children into His home. Remind a hurting, wounded world that God is real.