By Dr. Mark Hendrickson
The gentle spirit of Christmas brings a sense of fresh promise and renewal every year. The remembrances and commemorations of the birth of an innocent baby have a softening effect. Christmas provides a respite, even surcease, from the stresses, bruises, frictions, and pressures of everyday life.
Indeed, this annual event reminds us that children are the hope of the world. They represent pure goodness — a clean slate, free of the learned baggage of mistrust and unkindness. They give us a glimpse of what life can be like without strife or animosity. They testify to the ideal of peace on earth.
This year, the Christmas holiday has taken on a somber tone due to the unspeakable crime against children and loving educators in Newtown, Conn. Dozens of parents will experience Christmas without a loving, beautiful child — a light of their lives — at their side. Millions of Christians pray that they draw comfort from cherishing the miracle of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago.
We can’t begin to understand the gross darkness that led to such horridly unjust, random violence in Newtown. Such nihilism doesn’t compute in a healthy mind. Rather than try to comprehend incomprehensible blackness, we need to turn to the light.
The gospel of John describes Jesus as a light who came into the world to dispel darkness. Indeed, after the birth of Jesus, the forces of darkness tried to keep the Christ-light out of the world when Herod ordered the slaughter of all Hebrew boys under the age of two. Jesus was protected from that evil intent — one of many proofs he gave that light ultimately triumphs over darkness.
At the end of his public ministry, the forces of darkness again tried to snuff out the still-innocent life of Jesus, the Christ. Once again, though, the glorious message was sent loud and clear to all mankind that life is inextinguishable, when Jesus first showed that death had no hold on him and then shed the confines of the mortal, physical limits of time and space by ascending into heaven without passing through death. Indeed, as my colleague, Dr. Gary Smith, recently reported, the evidence is mounting that our conscious identities live on when the human body dies.
The very fact that so many millions of Americans mourn the senseless crime against good people whom they don’t even know is evidence of Jesus’ profound and lasting influence. To pagans — both ancient (e.g., Aztecs) and modern (e.g., Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, et al.) — life, even the lives of children, is cheap. Some professed monotheists regard children as expendable, too, as was shown when Iran’s stone-hearted ayatollahs condemned young children to death in the Iran-Iraq war by sending them into mine fields to blow themselves up so that Iranian troops could safely traverse the newly cleared fields. It is primarily, if not exclusively, Judeo-Christian values that have inculcated in western societies, among believers and nonbelievers alike, the recognition of how precious children are.
Normally, I would wish everyone “Merry Christmas,” but that traditional salutation seems inappropriate this year. My wish, instead, is that we all feel the gentle touch of the loving spirit that the infant Jesus embodied; that we quietly rejoice in the miracle of life, both human and eternal; that those who are grieving feel Christ’s comforting touch — the priceless gift, infinitely more valuable than gold, frankincense, and myrrh, of the hope of salvation from all the woes of the flesh. This year, let’s go deeper than the typical merriment and festivities of Christmas, and strive to hear the timeless angel-song: “On earth peace, good will toward men.”
“God bless us — every one!”
(Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.)