In the wee hours of Saturday morning, our Kindergartener wailed until we woke and rushed to his room, our eyes squinting at the sight of vomit-covered carpet. For more than an hour, we bent ourselves over the mess and comforted him in his sickness, a repeat of what he’d had over Thanksgiving. While I sleepwalked back and forth between bedroom and sink and washing machine, I thought of the parents in Newton, sleepless, grieving. I thought of the public servants who found themselves in the middle of the night bending over the most difficult of tasks at the crime scene.

Tears are falling
Hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God

So many Christmases, I’ve sung those words by heart, a homily for myself. Last year, I sang them in the church where I grew up, the congregation squeezed tight in pews. Grace notes ventured out into the space of empty aisles, the space above our heads where wood beams lined the vaulted ceiling, the space between the way things were meant to be and the way they are. This was no ordinary Christmas Eve. It was one tainted by grief.

In the third row, surrounded by extended family, a mother younger than me (one I had babysat when I was a teen) sat next to her remaining child, the other buried just ten days earlier, the little girl’s life snuffed out by a gunman looking to steal a video game. The wider church family and community had cried for her, for them. I hadn’t prepared to sing this song in the presence of the bereaved. I eked out the next words through voice weakened by tears.

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven’s silence
Welcome to our world

Evil intrudes and challenges the tawdry cheer of Christmas. How can those in sorrow celebrate now with all those presents never to be unwrapped, with those empty beds where there should have been children with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads? In the grief of the Sandy Hook tragedy, some victims have turned off the Christmas lights, a picture of the darkness visited on them.

And to think that this is how Christ’s childhood began…with the dark of a stable, the shadow of an inhospitable world, the nightmare of evil acting out its schemes. Herod, another cold-blooded killer ordered the slaughter of every male child under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

But even there, a star, a spotlight on hope…enough to draw wise men to worship.

I close my eyes to go on, sing through the image of the young mother’s pale face, her eyes glossed over in the aftermath.

So wrap our injured flesh around you
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God

In those front rows, white-knuckled hands held out white candles waiting for someone to spark the first light. I looked at the grieving family and the community surrounding. Then I looked up. Over our heads and under the rafters, two wood beams filled the space between, beams of the cross…and light beaming out from behind.

Fragile fingers sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born

Welcome to our world.

{How has the event in Newtown affected you this week? How has it (or other tragedies in this season) changed your view of Christmas?}

Welcome to those of you visiting from my friend Sheila’s blog, The Deliberate Reader, where I’m sharing today about my favorite books of hope and redemption, stories that help me rise from grief and fear. Maybe these will help you through your own difficult season, give you glimpses of glory, foreshadowing in the shadows.

Giveaway Winner(s): In view of the precious lives lost last week, our giveaway is even more poignant, encouraging us to tell the life-giving story of Jesus, Prince of Peace, that the generation to come might know and follow Him and be a blessing in a broken world. Chosen at random from 17 eligible comments, our winner of Carrie Ward’s “Together: Growing Appetites for God” is Ali with comment #8! I will be contacting you to get your address so that Moody Publishers can send the book your way. And because there were so many of you interested in this topic, I’ve decided to give away my marked up copy as well. Our second winner is Athena Miles with comment #3. Thank you all for participating and sharing your insights.

Title and lyrics quoted from Chris Rice’s “Welcome to Our World.”

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