Tragedy and Hope

 “Children let’s wait for the baby boy who will bring us peace and joy,” a beautiful, blond first-grader sang at our church on a recent Advent Sunday.

Although I knew she sang of the Christ child, I was reminded of our eager anticipation as we awaited the birth of our grandsons. Each new baby boy is a harbinger of hope. The very essence of possibility. A cause for rejoicing. 

A few days later the Newtown school shooting shocked us all. Like many of you, I had to drag my mind away from imagining a similar scenario in our schools. My heart ached for the parents, grandparents, and siblings of 20 first graders and their teachers.  It’s hard to fathom the tragedy of lives cut so short, the immensity of loss for families and friends.

At a youth ballet production of The Nutcracker the following day I thought about the children in Connecticut who would not be dancing or taking part in Christmas pageants. I mourned for families overwhelmed with grief. 

It seems so ironic, a massacre of innocents occurring in the midst of the joyous holiday season. 

And then I remembered the part of the Christmas story we never talk about – the flight of baby Jesus’ family – to escape a slaughter of innocents. 

As the story goes, Herod the Great, the Roman puppet king of Judea, suspected a rival to the throne. After the Magi’s visit and clandestine departure, he decreed the death of all Hebrew boy babies age two and under. Imagine the panic, the helplessness, the grief of those families. Hundreds of them. Thousands? 

Hope, catastrophe, loss. It is the way of our world. How often do we hear news reports of senseless carnage in Syria and other hotspots around the world. 

And yet, as Alexander Pope said, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”  Why? In part because of the birth of your child and mine. Each new life brings hope and joy. Especially the birth this season celebrates. The birth of Jesus—the Christ—is the source of authentic hope amid tragedy.

As we celebrate the season with family and friends let us focus on that baby boy who does, indeed, bring peace and joy.

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