It's almost impossible to wrap one's mind around the tragedy that took place in Connecticut several weeks ago, or the mall shooting which preceded that event by only a few days. It seems doubly impossible because, in our mythological Christmas context, events like that are not supposed to intrude on this particular season.
The reality is that they do.
In numerous times and numerous places, reality has intruded an ugly self into our celebratory atmosphere. In truth, the original Nativity ushered in the Slaughter of the Innocents, wherein the insanely jealous Herod sought to kill all male children under the age of 2, to prevent what he perceived as a threat to his throne.
What the season brings to awareness is the difference between happiness and joy. In the context of faith, joy is not a transitory state, open to destruction by the whims of this world. Joy is awareness that God is embracing us, shown by the birth of the Christ child.
There is no question or doubt that God grieves over what occurred in Newtown, and in Oregon, and in Aurora. The anguish of the parents, the community, the country, are reflections of the pain God feels when something like this occurs, or in fact when any of his children inflict slaughter on one another.
The celebration of Advent and Christmas is not a break in this pattern of inhumane behavior. It is, rather, God's answer to that pattern. Only in a cosmic sense can the birth of God With Us be understood to contain the answer to tragedies that occur, whether in Columbine, Aurora, or an Amish community.
A cry for awakening in several directions may be the end result of this particular tragedy, because the victims were so young and the season so vulnerable. If that occurs, so much the better, so much the more productive.
The truth, however, is that only massive change of heart will fix the problem, in the real sense. It is that massive change of heart Christians celebrate at this time of year, and sheds light on the joy going far beyond happiness.
Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis Christian High School. He can be contacted at: