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As I think about the tears and grief of the families in Newtown, Connecticut, I can't help but be reminded in this Advent season of the tears and grief of the families in Bethlehem whose babies were killed after Jesus' birth.  And I can't help but think that Advent speaks directly into this horrific event.

 

I'm certain that Satan would do anything to blind us to the real issues behind senseless tragedies like this.  But this is not a gun-control issue, and it's not an issue of bad childhoods or psychological problems or family shortcomings.  It's not even primarily an issue about school safety, although there are certainly some legitimate concerns there.  At its heart, this is an issue of sin - and that's exactly the issue that Advent addresses.

 

This is the season where we remember that Jesus came into the world to address this exact problem.  God made him who had no sin to be sin (or a sin offering) for us [2 Cor. 5:21].  We say these things and we believe them, but they can be so abstract.  Events like the shooting in Newtown take sin out of the abstract and paint it in all its ugliness. 

 

Jesus' coming into the world and giving himself for us freed us from slavery to sin and from the condemnation that results from sin.  But it didn't free us from the pain of sin, as Jesus himself warned us in John 16:33.  But an Advent is still coming - an Advent that will, indeed, free us from the pain of sin by wiping sin away.  Revelation 21 pictures that great day.  Verse 4 tells us that "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

 

God has intervened in human history, but he's not done.  That day is not here yet, but it is coming.  Meantime, how do we pray in times like this?  I'm sure there are many good answers, but here's how I'm praying:

  • That God will use this tragedy to point out people's need for him and to draw people to himself.
  • That God will speak to those who think they have plenty of time to make a decision for him, increasing their sense of urgency.
  • That God will comfort the families who lost loved ones.  That he will bring those families together and raise up support for them.
  • That God will use his church to minister comfort, peace, and grace - in Newtown to the families affected and more widely to people asking difficult questions.
  • That God will intervene in the lives of others who are going down the same path that Adam Lanza traveled, turning them around like he turned around Paul, and preventing similar atrocities.

 

Inevitably, many will question God's goodness in times like this.  They'll wonder why he didn't intervene to protect the children and adults who were killed.  Some, unable to wrestle with the problem of sin, will even blame God for the tragedy.

 

God could have dealt with the problem of sin in many ways.  He could have withheld from men freedom of choice, making us little more than automatons with no option but to do his will.  He could have chosen to destroy each person whenever they sinned, in which case there would be no people left.  God had many options.  His sovereign choice was to enter humanity as a baby, dealing with the problem of sin by sacrificing his only Son. 

 

The answer to sin is not legislation vainly attempting to restrain the violence of men's hearts.  It's not ever more complex and comprehensive security systems attempting to prevent these tragedies.  It's not family counseling in an attempt to help people cope with their issues.  It's a baby, who grew to be a man, who gave his life to save ours.  Advent speaks directly into tragedies like Newtown, and gives us as believers not only comfort that God cares and that he intervenes, but also answers to tragedy that no human source could ever provide.  And the promise of yet another Advent gives us hope and courage as we look forward to a day that will be very different from this one.

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