The frantic nature of our society leaves little room for peace, rest and quietness. We are bombarded with advertising to buy this or that, or messaging that makes us feel inferior if we don't dress this way or drive that car.
After this last week's tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, I am feeling more impressed to hug my children a little longer, tell them I love them a little more often and not let the tug of this world rob my joy, my relationships. Every night, when our family gathers to pray, our son Stephen prays like clockwork, "Lord, please don't let anyone get hurt tomorrow." Sunday night those words, the same words he prays every night, had a different meaning for me. In my heart, I agreed with him—"Yes, Lord please don't let anyone get hurt tomorrow."
And now, the week before Christmas, our country has to reconcile the sadness of these senseless deaths. This tragedy stands in stark contrast to what Christmas should represent. Today Christmas, is not at all about Christmas. It is more about buying happiness, instead of investing in happiness. But really happiness isn't the goal, but rather peace, a deep abiding peace. A peace that says, no matter what is happening all around me, it will be okay. In our communities, in our sphere of influence, in our families there are real needs. Needs like a loss of a loved one, cancer, divorce, deployment, unemployment, medical bills or too many bills that can't be soothed by a gift, but maybe by a hug or true friendship.
Ironically, the antidote to the heaviness for many of us, is the reason we are supposed to celebrate Christmas. Some 2000 years ago a gift was given to humanity. A baby whose message was so radical it changed the course of history. But we have to stop, take a breath and consider what the baby Jesus came to offer—peace (not temporary) and joy (not fleeting). He said to think about how you can please God and love your neighbor as you would like to be loved. Of course, He said more, but can you imagine a society that honored God and also considered others as more important than themselves. There is no room for murder, when we consider pleasing the God who loves us and if we put others comfort, safety and needs before our own.
Those families are forever changed—scarred because of what happened. But what is our response? Should we hate this young man or his family? No, there is no hope in that, but we should hate the act of violence and its motives. I believe the response to this tragedy is to pray for those families and that community. And then, take a hard look at our own lives and honor those families, by making sure our loved ones know we love them. I am sure that every one of those families wish that they could redo something from that morning, that week, that year, but they can't and it could haunt them forever. But we can still strengthen, restore or make amends with our family members, no matter how old or young. It doesn't matter if something has placed a wedge in your relationships; work to remove it now, because you still can, because it would be better.
Almost always, peace comes when we offer peace, hope comes when offer hope, and forgiveness comes when we forgive. I think the best gifts this Christmas are the ones that money can't secure. I am sure that each of us can plant some "seeds" of peace, hope or forgiveness as gifts and begin to strengthen or rebuild our relationships. It will take work, maybe some humility or actual forgiveness, but the reward of restoring or beginning to restore a relationship is a gift that, sadly, is no longer available to those families in Newtown, but is to us.
Can we honor those families by building, restoring or living "I love you" this Christmas?