As I write this article, it is only days before Christmas. This typical time of joy, excitement, and anticipation, carries with it this year certain somberness. Annually, we are disturbed by the commercialization of this “holiday season” and the various attempts to remove Jesus from the celebration of His birth – as ludicrous as it sounds. This year is no different in that regard. And each year for those of us who have “eyes to see and ears to hear”, our Lord overcomes those obstacles and Emmanuel – God is with us!
This year, however, in the midst of the shortest days of the year in our Northern Hemisphere, an even deeper darkness has permeat- ed the depths of our being – Sandy Hook Elementary School in New- town, CT. An unimaginable act of evil and terror in the murder and massacre of 20 kindergarteners and first graders, 6 of their teachers, and a mother whose “disturbed” 20 year old son shot her while she slept, before his killing rampage and suicide. This heinous act of evil has touched us to the very core. It has brought us to our knees. The most vulnerable and innocent of our little ones were slaughtered…
How do we respond? A change is needed. Unfortunately, these acts of violence are not new. To be sure, in our country with the terrible rise of mass murders in the past decade or so, these terrorist acts on children have become all too familiar. Centuries ago, at the time of Moses, the male infants of the Hebrews were ordered killed by the Egyptian Pharaoh because the Hebrews had become too power- ful. (Exodus 1). Shortly after Jesus’ birth, the Hebrew King Herod ordered all the children under two-years of age to be killed in and around Bethlehem in his attempt to destroy Jesus in fear that He would one day take his thrown. (Matthew 2:16-17). Our Church com- memorates these Holy 14,000 Innocents annually on December 29th. And then there are the more contemporary slaughterings of children at the hands of Adolph Hitler, Stalin, The Killing Fields of Cambodia, Rwanda and Sudan – to name a few.
How do we respond? A change is needed. As we have been “brought to our knees” by this horrific act, let us not be so quick to get up. Let us remain there in prayer and look to the One who of ages past and present brings us out of darkness into the light. (Matthew 4:14-16). As we consider such issues as gun control, mental healthcare, protective measures in schools, malls, theatres, and crowded venues – allow these considerations to be rooted in prayer.
A change is needed. On the 12th day of Christmas, we annually celebrate Theophany/ Epiphany, remembering our Lord’s baptism in the Jordan River, where God in Trinity is revealed. Our belief is that as the Lord stepped into the water of the Jordan, the River reversed its course. Symbolically, as Christ – the God/Man entered into the world, He reestablished fallen nature and humankind to its (and our) “original beauty”. Our journey in response to God’s presence in our lives of actualizing our reclaimed beauty in a world full of pain, suffering, sorrow and death, is an upstream battle, one going against the flow. It requires a soul focus on God.
A change is needed. Jesus began his three-year public ministry following His baptism with the words of His Forerunner, John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). Repentance – a change of mind, a change of attitude, a change of direction is needed. Please read these powerful words written by Father Alexander Karloutsos in his 2012 Christmas message:
“Why is it, I ask, that we insist on giving our children everything our parent’s could not afford to give us and yet desist from giving them the priceless things of value that our parent’s did give us – our faith, culture, and legacy? We buy them apps, but not aptitude for living; we give them toys, but neglect to give them life’s tools; and we give them the best of cars, but without giving them the best road to travel through life. Surprisingly and sadly, out of our abounding love, we’ve given our children an entitlement mentality opposed to a gratitude mindset!”
A change is needed. We need, our children need, our civil lead- ers need, our nation needs, our world needs – GOD. God is our Savior. God is our Hope. God is our Strength. God is our Love. God is our Peace. God is our Life. The change necessary is needed at all levels, but it begins with you and me. It is “grass roots”. Saint Seraphim of Sarov states, “Save yourself and thousands around you will be saved.” In the violence of our world, of our nation, of our cit- ies, of our rural areas, of our entertainment, of our politics, and of our families – we, you and I are called to be peacemakers. As Saint Basil states, “Nothing is so characteristically Christian as being a peacemaker.” In a world of divisions, borders, disagreements, and hatred, we are called to love.
Let this change begin today. With the beginning of our New Year, and still in the midst of the celebration of Christmas and The- ophany, our Lord’s humble entrance into the world and the revelation of God in Trinity, let us allow Him to lead us out of darkness into the Light. As we draw nearer to His Light, may we be renewed and transformed. May He then use us as His beacons of light, hope, love, care, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace for our families, our peers, our nation and the world!
Have a blessed healthy and Spirit-filled New Year! With our Lord’s blessing,