Thinking about what I wanted to write as a Christmas column, my first thought was one about all I really want for Christmas is to be with my family. But then the national tragedy of the killing of school children and adults in Connecticut, along with a death in our family, moved my thoughts in another direction.
There are four things that I’ve read or remembered that stood out in my mind in connection with what has happened. The first is from a book I’m reading by Stephen Coonts, called “Fortunes of War.” It is fictional, as are most books I read, and deals with a war in which Japan attacks Russia, and America steps in to defend Russia. At one point in the book, the U. S. President is talking with one of his advisors, and the advisor says that people don’t believe in evil anymore. The President responds with conviction, “Oh no. Evil is alive and well in our time. The problem is that too many people have made their peace with it.”
The second is an editorial cartoon I saw. We are running it below. There are several panels in the cartoon. They all show a man watching the TV news and reacting to the numerous accounts of school shootings that, unfortunately, we have had over the past few years. His responses, in turn, are “Oh my God!” “ Not again!” “Heavens no!” “Can’t be.” “I’m out of tears…” And finally, just some mumbling under his breath. The cartoonist calls it “The Numbing Down of America.”
The third is a quote I found on Facebook that has been attributed to the actor Samuel L. Jackson. I can’t verify that he actually said it, but Jackson did grow up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and went to college at Morehouse in Atlanta, so he does have the background. He is quoted as saying, “I don’t think it is about more gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This (shooting) is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”
I think those three things say a lot about how we are living today. It is easy to blame the news media for constantly bringing news of horrible tragedies like the shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn., to us, but we are just the messengers. What you do with the news we bring is what matters. The killing of innocent children is pure evil, and nothing the killers can do or say can justify those actions. But what is even more evil is if we become numb to those events, if we become so worn down by the accounts of it happening so many times that we start believing nothing can be done and we make our peace with that evil. Once we do that, then we are, in a way, condoning what had happened, and we have devalued life. Life is the most precious gift God has given us, and how can we teach others the value of life if we, as a society, devalue it to the point where the taking of it, either at our own hand or by someone else’s hand, doesn’t affect us anymore?
I said at the beginning there were four things that stood out in my mind. The fourth is a song called “I Believe in Father Christmas,” by Greg Lake of the 1970’s progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The song talks about the loss of innocence and childhood beliefs in Christmas. Some people view it as cynical, but I see it as realistic. The last line says, “Hallelujah Noel, be it Heaven or Hell, the Christmas we get we deserve.”
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ, who came to Earth to bring hope and salvation, and who, in the end, died for our sins. I think the greatest of our sins are making peace with evil and the devaluing of human life. If we let that happen, then the Christmas we get we deserve.