I've gotten a few e-mails this past weekend asking about or anticipating my blog post in the week before Christmas about the act of insane violence in Sandy Hook. Let me say that on Friday, I was dead-set against writing anything about this event for a couple of reasons. One is that everybody has written about this already, right? Everyone has laid their idiosyncratic viewpoint on the thing and come up with everything from banning guns to handing out free guns to some truism with the word "Gospel" in it. And of all the things I hope to be as a blogger, being one voice like the others has never been my objective.
Another reason, frankly, was that I am actually tired of blogging. I have been having a modest conversation with Dan about my ennui, and while he makes a decent point about the things we have accomplished in the last 7-8 years ("we" including Phil and Officer Pecadillo), this isn't 2006 anymore and I'm not in my mid-30's anymore. So one thing weighing on me is that I have more important things to do, like ministry.
The greatest reason, for better or worse, that I did not want to blog about this, if I can invite you to be invasively-curious, is that I was off on Friday for the first time in months. I was spending the day at home with my exquisite family, and I wanted nothing to do with anything other than them. My daughter and I built an amazing gingerbread house out of graham crackers. We bought Christmas presents which will blow minds. I ignored work and the world long enough for my wife to enjoy my company AND I also got to watch about 3 hours worth of new Avengers episodes on Netfix with the Boy.
But the news of the shooting kept intruding. At one point I was walking into my house, and it occurred to me that it was possible that there was a father walking into his house in Connecticut, which he spends his waking hours paying for, where he spends his nights loving the people in it, and now (for him) there would be one of those people gone forever. There are presents under his ridiculously-merry-and-bright tree for that person who is now gone. There's a room in this house where that missing person still has his or her stuff, and that person isn't coming back to play with the Legos or the American Girl dolls or the Thomas table or the Ponies, or to need a bed time story prolonged by a glass of water or a few crackers. As I walked into my house, I could feel the oppressive emptiness that this other fellow in Connecticut was getting sucked into by the lack of one person. And all he did wrong in this instance, on that day, was what he does right and has been doing right for the last 2200 days or so. And this, at Christmas, when we think the world will be full of tidings of comfort and joy. For my part, I wanted nothing to do with insulting or offending that guy, and the other parents like him, because they were the victims who had their human love and human joy murdered.
Let me say this: I doubt a few verses of Silent Night or Oh Come All Ye Faithful will be enough to console that fellow. He now has to live with Christmas in the real world where a fatherless boy murders his mother, and then other people's children, on a Thursday.
This past week, by way of comparison, RC Sproul Jr. has been celebrating the first anniversary of his wife's death. "Celebrating" is the right word, however incongruous it is, if you watch him -- because he is in the process of translating his sorrow in loss, through the immeasurable gain his wife Denise has received in leaving this life and coming into the immediate presence of God, into seeing the face of Christ. You know: I have been rather hard on R.C. Jr. over the last few months as he and I have had very different ideas about political activism and the American citizen's role in creating political justice in this nation. He's almost exactly my age, and we are two guys who, except for a few details, have enough in common to get on each other's nerves. But there are empty places in the Sproul home which I cannot imagine and refuse to consider myself because, if I am honest, I am not sure I would present the faith and hope RC does as he faces them. He looks into death and sees Jesus, and is glad to the measure that he is also at a loss -- for his loss is not swallowed up in death, but in victory over death, and sin, and sickness, and so on.
I realize that this doesn't make a whiff of sense to most people -- other Christians especially. You know: melancholy memes go around when stuff like this happens. Christmas is Ruined for someone. Christmas is Ruined when I lose my job at Christmas. Christmas is Ruined when I am evicted at Christmas. Christmas is Ruined when I suffer violent crime at Christmas, or I am diagnosed with terminal death at Christmas, or a beloved member of my very home and heart who sleeps in one of the beds I have provided and whom I feed and cloth not merely out of duty but ought of love and fatherly concern is murdered when he was trying to learn the alphabet. Christmas is ruined, and for someone like RC to spout his fantastic praises and felicitations speaks more to hypothetical-me about his lack of seriousness about what has just happened rather than to his faith. He's another Calvinist quack negating real loss and sorrow and claiming they are nothing.
Well, let me suggest something before you go and toss the tree into the fireplace and put the gifts into the compactor at work out of a desperate attempt to crush the small symbols of joy with your rightfully-large burden of sin-sickness and loss-weariness.
It's possible that maybe you could ruin Christmas by making it into a holiday of introspection. You could make it a time when we reflect on ourselves and who we have become in the last year -- or as you get older, who you have become since you were young and full of expectation that next year's return would be greater than this year's baubles. That kind of introspection will, as Dickens taught us with Scrooge, make us old and bitter. That kind of "holiday" will destroy us over time as we become, over time, the people who do what seems right in our own eyes.
It's possible to ruin Christmas, I suppose, by making it into a mere tradition of family reunion. Many have already done that, and let's face it: it's a bad deal for the people related to us because you have met us, right? Nevermind that we feel the same toward them -- getting together in those circumstances won't make it any better. We'd be better off saving the money we'd shell out for such a thing for our retirements as it would turn into real money after 50 or 60 years if we are fortunate enough to get than many white Christmases.
But here's the thing: I'm willing to say, in the shadow of the insanity at Sandy Hook, that you cannot ruin Christmas with the murder of innocents. You can only make the need for Christmas more obvious.