This Christmas is undoubtedly going to have a different feel to it for most of us. It was already going to be tinged with a sense of anxiety, because of fears about the so-called fiscal cliff. In the aftermath of the horrifi c events in Newtown, Conn., Christmas will now also inevitably be colored by feelings of sadness and grief.
So much of what we’ve seen in the news media has involved the “search for answers.” What exactly happened? How did the gunman get into the school? What security procedures were in place? Were they followed? What kinds of guns did he have? Where did he get them? Then there are the more existential questions. What makes a 20-year-old commit such heinous acts? How can anyone have such utter disregard for human life? Why did he target children?
The questions go on and on, and the search for answers has become an around-the-clock quest, involving news media, law enforcement, politicians, psychologists, school administrators, teachers and parents. Regarding the factual details, they will likely find some answers.
In the end, however, this search for answers will never fully satisfy our deepest questions about this tragedy. No matter how many factual details we learn about what happened, no matter how much we learn about the shooter’s life story and psychological profile, no matter what new laws are enacted or new procedures put in place, we will still be left with unanswered questions about how such things could occur in our world. We are left to wonder anew about the meaning and purpose of life. Christmas speaks to the very heart of our deepest questions about life, especially in the face of pain and suffering. For Christians, Christmas is first and foremost about our belief that a loving and merciful God entered the human condition to bring reconciliation and peace. We do not believe in a God who is distant and indifferent to our needs and concerns. Rather, we believe that God knows us, our joys and sorrows, more deeply than we even know ourselves, and that God is present and active in our lives.
This does not mean that there are easy answers to our hardest questions, but it does mean that no matter how alone or abandoned we may feel at times, we are never truly alone. Jesus was also called “Emmanuel,” which literally translated means “God is with us.” May the peace of God be with us all in this Christmas season and beyond.