Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More than ever we need to remember the reason for Christmas

For the past few days my wife and I have been visiting our son and his family near Philadelphia.  It was our Christmas with them.  We exhanged presents, ate some great meals, and really enjoyed being with each other.  In view of the horrible tragedy in Connecticut, my time with our grandchildren was even more special than usual.  As I looked each one in the face I could not imagine the pain I would feel if for some reason they were not here.  Like most Americans I have prayed for the families and close friends who have been impacted by this horrible event.  I listened as President Obama spoke to the nation, and then to the people in Newtown, Connecticut and felt that he has never spoken more eloquently.  I pray that the people most impacted by this event received the comfort and encouragement his words were intended to convey.

Like so many, I can't make any sense out of this tragedy.  The killer evidently left no note so we don't know what motivated him to commit such a horrible crime against so many innocent people.  Perhaps as the investigation continues we'll learn more about his reasons for his actions, if there are any reasons. 

A second challenge is determining what we as a nation needs to do to prevent this from happening in the future.  Of course, there are renewed calls for stricter gun laws, and even some lawmakers who have opposed such laws in the past are announcing they are rethinking their position.  That is understandable in light of the events of the past weekend, but my fear is that stricter gun laws really won't do anything to make people safer.  They may give people the appearance that they are safer, but the fact is such laws will do little to make our lives safer.  The problem with gun laws is that the people who promote them forget that evil people don't care about such laws.  Such laws penalize law-abiding people and do nothing to to deter those people bent on harming others.  Do I believe the average American needs an automatic weapon?  No, but how many hundreds of thousands of these weapons already exist, and how difficult will it be for a criminal to obtain one?  Will the passing of any law change that?  Very doubtful.  Therefore, how will such laws make our lives any more secure?

It could be argued that stricter gun laws would at least be a deterrant to someone who wanted to harm others.  Timothy McVeigh killed and injured hundreds of people with a bomb made out of fertilizer.  On 9/11 terrorists killed thousands of people with planes they secured by the use of box cutters.  Guns are not needed by someone determined to inflict pain and death on others.

The fact is that the one thing that so many do not want to recognize is that evil exists in the world.  We live in a time when people want to argue that there is no absolute right and wrong, but such people are hard pressed to defend that position when something happens such as the killing of innocent children.  Evil does exist, and there are evil people in the world today who seek to harm others, and they will do their best to carry out their plans by whatever way they can find whether that is with a gun, a knife, a ball bat, a box cutter, or bags of fertilizer.  No law can address evil no matter how much we might wish otherwise.

Only one thing can conquer evil, and that brings us to the message of Christmas.  Jesus Christ came to overcome the evil that exists in the world and in the hearts of mankind.  Born in a simple manger he was eventually crucified on a cross to offer all mankind the transformation that we all need.  No law can transform the heart and soul of a human being.  Laws can only attempt to regulate the sinful nature that we are all born with, and as we see all too often they fail at such regulation.  Only Christ can change a person's heart and transform evil into good.

This is a message that has been removed from the public square in the past few years.  We've eliminated Christmas programs in our school or at least replaced them with holiday programs.  Companies order their employees to say "Happy holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" so as not to offend their customers.  Nativity scenes have been removed from government grounds.  Christian values and teachings are ridiculed and mocked in much of the media today.  I could go on listing the assault on Christianity, but all we are left with now is the hope that more laws will somehow address evil when we all know they can't.  Today, more than ever we need to remember the reason for Christmas.  Christ came to offer the things we need more than ever: hope, peace, love, forgiveness, and transformation.  If we can help even one person receive these this Christmas season we will have given him or her the greatest gift they will ever receive.

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