Emmanuel: Into a Weeping World

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children And refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”

These words from the Gospel (Matthew 2:18) have haunted me ever since the first unthinkable reports began coming out of Newtown, CT, last Friday.  Weeping.  Great mourning.  Howling grief.  What other response could we possibly have to such unimaginable horror and evil?

The world weeps with Rachel.  Our hearts are broken.  Our prayers are continual.  Our arms are extended.  Mothers all over the country—and the world—feel it at a deep, visceral level.  I know people who left work on Friday, sick with the news.  A friend left our neighborhood Christmas party, bought low by the day’s events.  Every mother—and grandmother—I know wanted to rush to school instantly and flee with her child.  We see the faces and hear the names—and they are our own children.

Weeping with Rachel.  And for all our children who grow up in a world in which such things can happen.  In Newtown, Connecticut.  Or Syria.  Or Congo.  As Nicholas Wolterstorff observes in his memorable book Lament for a Son, it’s the only appropriate response to such raw grief and loss: “Come and sit with me on my mourning bench.”

“Weep with those who weep,” the Scriptures tell us (Romans 12:15 NKJV).  And that’s just what our Lord did.  He wept with friends at the death of their brother (See John 11).  He wept over the city of Jerusalem and the devastation that was to come (Luke 19:41-44).

But here’s the really amazing thing: He chose to come into a weeping world.  A world in which violence under Roman rule was the norm.  A world in which a wicked king could order the death of all babies two years old and under in a quiet, unsuspecting village.  A world in which God Himself could be nailed to a cross.

Emmanuel.  God with us.  “The virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)  He came into a wicked, broken, weeping world—and He wept with us.  He chose to do that.  He still does.

But He did much more.  He gave His very life that sin and death might be defeated.  That’s what we celebrate at Christmas.   That He came.  That He lived.  That He died.  That He rose again, defeating sin and death and opening the gates to eternal life.  That He Who became God with us, who brought God to us, will one day bring us to God.  To eternity in a place where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”  (Revelation 21:4)

Now that’s something to celebrate—even in a weeping Christmas.