It’s happened again–only this time it wasn’t in Connecticut but almost 7,000 miles away in Peshawar, Pakistan. This morning, gunmen broke into classrooms and slaughtered boys and girls as they sat learning. It’s a story we know too well: December. School. Children. Death.
Tonight, parents will return to empty beds; food will be left uneaten; and a soccer ball will stand in the courtyard, still and unmoving. And just as they did two years ago, despite the divide of language and culture, our own mother- and father-hearts will crack, life and hope leaking out of us, as we wonder how is there any meaning in this?
Why do grown men kill children?
Why do they target girls going to school?
Why does education and childhood threaten them so?
In an official statement, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, condemned today’s massacre as “senseless and inhumane.” And suddenly we understand. Suddenly we understand why school children die. School children do not die simply because they are easy targets or because education is somehow a western corruption. School children die precisely because their deaths are “senseless and inhumane.”
This is the point.
On the edge of The Great Battle, The Enemy stands in his tent, leaning over a map of the field. He eyes it with cold calculating resolve while his marshals wait silent around him, ready for his command. And then he lifts a finger and places it down: “Here. We strike here.”
“A school? Children?”
In order to attack a God who is Wisdom, you must do the senseless. In order to attack a God who became human, you must do the inhumane.
As word relays down the chain of command, forces muster. They begin arranging, plotting, planning an assault that would defy the very nature of their opponent. At the same time, mothers wake their sons and fathers walk their daughters to school in pursuit of the good and true because this is what their Creator God has given them. Made in His own likeness, they pursue what He is, whether they realize it or not. And all the while, The Enemy pursues the annihilation of all that good and true and sensible and humane, for the exact same reason.
This conflict is especially marked during the Christmas season because it is during this season that we celebrate the reality that God dwells with His people. It is during Christmas that we remember that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” It is during Christmas that we acknowledge that Jesus Christ embodies all that is sensible and humane.
And it is a Wisdom and Humanity that was first revealed in a Child.
I’m beginning to wonder if The Great Battle doesn’t intensify during Christmas. And I’m beginning to wonder whether children–those who most clearly reflect the Childhood so central to our hope—don’t somehow become more of a target during this season as well. Is it inevitable that Mary’s joy will forever be accompanied by Rachel’s mourning?
But even as we weep, even as we look on the senseless and inhumane, we do not lose hope. If anything, this season of Incarnation reminds us that the good and wise and beautiful will prevail. Because this is what Christ’s birth means to us: A Redeemer. A Savior. A Hope for the Nations. In that manger, we are reminded that life has purpose and meaning and that our God has come to restore it.
There will be no Christmas Truce this season. In The Great Battle, The Enemy does not respect such displays of humanity. And because he doesn’t, we must be ready fight against all that is senseless and inhumane. But we do not fight as he does, with meaningless violence; instead, we fight by honoring the One who is Wisdom Incarnate. We fight by engaging in the hard work of joy and faith. And for the next few weeks, we will fight by celebrating the Child who came to make sense of it all.