Some signs that a society has fallen can be clear and overwhelming. Signs like the presence of abject poverty for so many in the midst of increasing wealth for others. Or perhaps the feeling of being in a sort of economic or social bondage, creating very real obstacles on what is attainable in life. A general mindset that morality is subjective or situational and that absolutes are a thing of the past. Living with violence being so common that we seldom reach the place of shock or outrage; raising the threshold for what qualifies as horrific. And then the evil reaches new lows as it impacts the most vulnerable, the children. Suspicion and a general 'lack of trust' become systemic, particularly when directed towards political leaders.
Sound familiar??? As I'm sure many have, I've read much commentary about the senseless and painful events that occurred in Newtown, CT, last Friday. The news of this tragedy took everyone's breath away. We all lost a step as we watched in disgust and disbelief. We asked, 'How could this happen?' And not that anytime would have been better but the stark contrast of these events with thoughts connected to the Christmas season is inescapable. Many ask the question, 'How do we celebrate a season that focuses on a little child in a manger, that promotes "peace on Earth" and goodwill, with the realities of a culture that is so violent, selfish, and downright evil?' It's a fair question.
Now, you may have read the opening paragraph and thought, 'yeah, that describes our world fairly well.' Except that I wasn't trying to describe the United States in 2012. I was painting a picture of Rome two thousand years ago, the world into which "a child was born."
You see, the world that Jesus entered as a human being was not that different from the one we see today. Some may think the Christmas message is lost when placed against the backdrop of senseless violence like shootings in a Connecticut elementary school or a shopping mall in Oregon. But we need to remember that the Master's message of hope and joy was intended for an angry and violent culture just like ours. Recent events haven't dampened the message of Christmas. They've highlighted its importance all the more.
I believe open and honest conversation about what happened last week is both healthy and necessary. We need to talk about the cultural supports that allowed horrific scenes like those to become imaginable to anyone's mind, and not just address the means or methods by which they can be carried out. All of it needs to be discussed.
But for me, a crucial first step is something many have suggested in the last few days that of changing our culture's message. I agree. We do need to change the message of our society. But frankly, it needs to be changed to one that centers on the true meaning of 'joy to the world' that through Christ, and Him alone, God and sinner have an opportunity to be reconciled. That our Savior was born to offer peace and goodwill to people that felt they had little of either, just like many feel today.
That is the reason He came and that is the message that can be proclaimed boldly even in the midst of tragedy. For even when sorrow rages fiercely, His name is still Wonderful and Counselor. He continues to be the Everlasting Father. He remains our Prince of peace.
If there's any message that needs to be on the table for our world, it's His now more than ever!
Hiram Claudio is a minister and bible teacher who has traveled to 8 nations spreading the Good News of faith in Christ and victory through His name. He is married (for 29 years). He and his wife live in New York and have two sons.