|Reactions to Newtown Shootings|
I'm afraid lifelong, American Christians treat Christmas with at least two false assumptions:
The first false assumption is that (maybe due to carols like Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Angels We Have Heard on High) we assume nothing bad was going on when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Somehow it must have been more tranquil and God chose that time in history because life was simpler and less violent. Nothing like what happened in Newtown was anything like reality to those who lived at the time of Jesus' birth.
The second false assumption is that God worked differently then than now. We assume that when Jesus was born everything immediately changed, Jesus grew up blissfully, and the Kingdom of Heaven eventually came on earth until we are in Heaven. God protected the just and the ways of God became embedded in the hearts of humans forever more.
These assumptions about the Christmas story are false, and they cause us to miss how Jesus' birth in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago speaks directly to the horrors of the Newtown shootings.
Things were bad when Jesus was born. Read for yourself the history of Israel during the time of Roman rule, the Maccabees, and 50 years either side of Jesus' birth. Things were brutal, and life was expendable for political and military gain. Pompey the Great (d. 48 B.C.) laid siege to Jerusalem and entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple while slaughtering 12,000 in the process. The biblical story tells us that Herod the Great (d. 4 B.C.), having heard from the Magi of the birth of a king in Bethlehem, had all the two-year-old boys killed in the area. (Matthew 2:16) Jesus' family fled to Egypt to hide from Herod's goon squads.
Jesus was born into a world like ours, and that's the point. God did not wait for some tranquil, non-violent span of history to insert His Son to offer some other-worldly, idyllic reality. God sent His Son into human suffering and violence to demonstrate the power of love over evil, eternal life over death, and God's reign over the rule of human evil.
The story of Christmas is the story of God entering our violent, evil-infected world in the person of His Son, Jesus, so we may know the power of love over weapons, forgiveness over revenge, and sacrifice over self-preservation.