Back on December 13th, our church offered a Blue Christmas service. It was advertised as being especially for those who find the holiday season difficult due to loss or grief. It was a beautiful evening, and my sense is that it did bring a measure of healing to those who came to reflect, to light a candle in remembrance, and to be free from the pressure to be “jolly.”
What we didn’t know that evening was that within hours, our whole nation would be facing a Blue Christmas. The horrific killings in Newtown, Connecticut on the morning of December 14th cast a deep shadow over the hearts and minds of everyone, and we gathered again on December 15th to pray and lament and light more candles in remembrance.
And we who are parents of young children — What are we to say to our own children? We can light a candle in church. We can march for gun control or lobby for more support for children with special needs. We can decide whether or how often to expose our own children to violence in the media or violence in games. But in the moment: What are we to say of this world? When we gathered for the Christmas pageant on December 23rd, not so long after the Newtown shootings, that was the question I saw in the eyes of the adults who watched with a subdued joy the beautiful children singing and sharing the story of God’s love.
I’m not sure that there is one right answer. But for myself, I tell my children the truth. Not in graphic detail, not sitting in front of the TV watching fear and horror in the faces of those affected over and over again. But enough truth to make clear that bad things do happen, have happened.
And then I hug them, and I remind them that they are surrounded by people who love them and they can never be separated from God’s love.
The Christmas story itself is not devoid of darkness. The incarnation of God in Christ does not rid the world of evil. But it points to its ultimate defeat. And it reminds us that whenever we join with God in bringing light to dark places, we touch upon the heart of our meaning and purpose.
So let us keep at it, holding our children’s hands, and praying with them, in hope.