Tuesday, December 18, 2012

6 Christian Images for Newtown

I cannot imagine what the parents in Newtown are going through, especially those who have lost their children in this tragedy. As a mother, I know the pain in their heart is unspeakable and my heart breaks for them. Driving my car yesterday, I started to brainstorm, "what are some images from my tradition that can speak to the horror we saw last Friday?" I want to share 6 of them with you.


1. The first one is pretty obvious. Every speech we've heard since the event, particularly the speeches by President Obama, has used this quote. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew to "Let the children come to me" and "That the Kingdom belongs to such as these." In New Testament times, children were to be seen, not heard. They were the lowest of the low, the very bottom of the totem pole. So it was quite revolutionary for Jesus to give them so much attention and dignity. Jesus loved children and although they died, we can trust that the victims of this massacre are being held in His arms right now.





2. The next one is fairly obvious given the holiday that is coming up. God, when He decided that He wanted to come to Earth and save us, didn't come as a king in glory and majesty. He came as a little child. As the hymn "Come, thou long-expected Jesus" says, "Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king..." Again, another one "The coming of our God" says, "The everlasting Son comes down to Mary's womb; He bears our servitude to save us from our doom. O Zion, rise in haste to meet the meek and mild; Throw wide your arms; embrace the peace brought by this holy child." We Christians celebrate Christmas because we believe that God Himself, Creator and Sustainer of the world, came down to us in the form of a newborn baby. All children are God's children.




3. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read about how after Jesus' birth and after the Magi ran off, Herod ordered for all little boys under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed in hopes of that he would kill Jesus and prevent Him from becoming king. Joseph had a dream about this warning him and so he took the Holy Family to Egypt and Jesus was spared. In many Christian traditions, these children are considered the first martyrs. After the events in Newtown, I saw a prayer to the Holy Innocents make its way around Facebook:

A Prayer To The Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.

Holy Innocents, you were killed because one man

was filled with hatred, pray for those who hate that God may touch their hearts and fill them with love.

Holy Innocents, you experienced a violent death, pray for all who are affected by violence that they may find peace and love.

Holy Innocents, your parents grieved for you with deep and lasting sorrow, pray for all parents who have lost young children that God may wrap a warm blanket of comfort around them.

Holy Innocents, those around you certainly felt helpless to prevent your deaths, pray for all who feel helpless in their circumstances that they may cling to God for courage and hope.

Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God's love forever.

Amen.


4. Now, follow me to the other end of Jesus' life on earth. We believe that Mary was there at the crucifixion. She witnessed the little child who she had held close in the manger grow up and die a horrible death on the cross. She watched her Son bleed and breathe His last. In sculptures, like the above by Michelangelo, and other similar statues and paintings, Mary is depicted holding her dead Son in her arms. Mary knows what the parents in Newtown are feeling more than I ever could. True, Jesus was not taken from this world in the springtime of His youth, He was an adult when He was executed, but a parent should never, ever have to bury their own child.




5. John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life." Not only does Mary know what it is like to lose a child. God the Father knows too. Now, since He is God, He knew the reason why His Son had to die. He saw the bigger picture. But I'm sure that did not lend much condolence to Him as He watched Jesus suffer and die. A Man He knew to be innocent, a Man who He had watched grow up and had such an intimate relationship with, dies of asphyxiation, bleeding, naked on a cross. He knew why His Son had to die that day, but it was still His Son He watched dying.




6. And then we get to Jesus Himself. Jesus died. He not only died, but He died in the most horrific way that the Romans could think of at the time. He walked into the garden at Gethsemane knowing He was going to die. As part of the mystery of the Trinity, we also believe that Jesus was God. So as fully divine as well as fully man, Jesus walked every day of His life knowing how and when He was going to die. And when the time came, it was not easy for Him. He prayed that His fate could be changed. He cried out on the cross feeling as if God the Father had abandoned Him in His final moments. He courageously went to His death, but "courage" does not mean without fear. It means not letting the fear paralyze you into inaction. It reminds me of something else that has been making it's way around Facebook:



This is Victoria Soto. She died a hero today. She hid her first graders in the cabinets and closets after hearing the gunfire. When the shooter came to her classroom, she told him that her students were in the gym. He then gunned her down and moved on. She saved the lives of all of her students. Please pass this on if you see it. She deserves to be remembered for her bravery.


The story is not entirely true, but as the facts come in, we do know that she did die trying to protect "her kids" and five other staff members did, too. They showed the exact same courage Jesus showed on the cross.




This is the image I want to end with. There is the face of a young child (maybe angel) with a halo, a symbol of holiness. That face is right next to the face of the suffering Christ with this crown of thorns. I think this sums up the points I made with the other images very well.      

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