When evil shows how hideous it truly is, when innocents are slaughtered like in the recent event at Sandy Hook Elementary School, our hearts break. We cannot offer enough love and prayers for the families in the valley of the shadow of death. But not all hearts break the same. Some may break with despair. Some may break with hate. Yet some break with hope.
Hope hinges on the birth of one child. An innocent born over 2000 years ago into a world filled, as ours, with evil. After his birth one of the top politicians of the day commanded his soldiers to march into the town of Bethlehem. Brushing aside screaming parents, under orders they massacred all the children two years old and under, leaving behind unspeakable anguish. There followed no tribunal, no cries of war crimes. The deed was done. Death at the time of Christmas is nothing new.
Life since the time of Christmas is something new. This child, born into darkness, was a light. He was born into the valley of the shadow of death as the bright morning star.
And he had a new name: Emmanuel.
He had many others also. Listen to the Bible: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6. He was also called Jesus. But on this day, for many of us, the name Emmanuel stands out.
When you hear that name sung in Christmas carols this season, remember what it means. Again the Bible: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” – Matthew 1:23.
“God with us.” This is the name that provides us with hope for a season like this. The question above all others is whether or not God is on our side. Does he truly love us? Does he truly care when our hearts break? Is he truly with us? If the answer is yes, then they can break with hope.
And Jesus is God’s overwhelming “yes.” God is love and he is with us. We shout our questions of why into the dark and hear back echoes that offer some understanding. Our Bible does provide us with some clues: free will, Satan, sin.
But more than understanding, we need hope. Hope that God is with us. Jesus is that hope, born into blackness, suffering, rejected, full of sorrow and in the end, he too murdered by evil men.
God knows. And he is with us, even in the blackest shadows. Jesus is providing joy and comfort to those children that now see him face-to-face. His immeasurable grace is being poured out on those remaining behind whose hearts break.
The message of Christmas is Emmanuel, God with us. May our hearts break with hope.
Rick Cupp serves as minister of the Kenai Fellowship. Sunday Bible classes are at 10 a.m.; coffee, 10:45; worship, 11. A Wednesday meal is at 6 p.m. followed by worship at 7.