This week, as I was driving to work, I heard two stories, back-to-back, about children that got me thinking about Christmas and how the so-called “Holy Family” would be treated today. The first was about the Saudi backed civil war in Yemen. This eight-year conflict is being fueled by US intelligence and logistical support to the Saudi involvement.
This war has caused 4 million people, mostly women and children, to be displaced. 64% of whom have no income. Over two million children are acutely malnourished. According to reliefweb.int, “About 23.4 million Yemenis (73% of the population) have become dependent on humanitarian aid. The military operations had caused the internal displacement of 4.3 million Yemenis by March 2022.”
The piece that followed was one about the 10-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Several of the parents who lost children were interviewed and many said it was “just another day” to muddle through without their child. And while Alex Jones has been ordered to pay a Billion dollars in damages to these families, the trauma of these losses can never be erased by winning a lawsuit, tearing down the school where it happened, or making a memorial so that we “never forget.” What struck me about these two stories is the way weapons of war are used to destroy children’s lives. AR style weapons are used in most mass shootings as well as in war. Those who claim to love children, follow Jesus, and declare that “every life matters” seem to miss the point when it comes to the actual victims of war and unfettered gun access. As I was listening, I couldn’t help but see, in my mind, the “Holy Family” in a refugee camp in Yemen, or the baby Jesus dead on the floor of his elementary school. I can’t help but see the faces of those public figures who hold a gun in one hand and a bible in the other. Did they miss the part that says, “They will beat their swords into plowshares. and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)?
We can certainly give money to organizations that work to end war, send medical and food aid to countries who are suffering the impacts of war, and support people bringing food and water to the devastated around the world. We can work to strengthen gun laws and reinstate the Assault Weapons ban, but unless we are willing, as people who follow Jesus, to not “train for war anymore,” nothing is going to change. Unless we are willing to disarm communities (and our hearts?) the Prince of Peace, the babe in the manger, the one we declare the Messiah of God with carols, cards and candles every year, will not be able to come and live among us. It is simply too dangerous for this one to be born into a world with so much violence. And yet, this is exactly what Jesus keeps doing. The radical nature of the story of a migrant giving birth in a stable, the narrative of innocent’s slaughtered to maintain power, and the flight to asylum in a foreign land – these could be the stories of any refugee or from any classroom today. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And yet we are given a new opportunity every year to change our behavior, to speak more boldly about peace, to work more passionately for justice, because Love is here. Love is here and coming again, in and through us.
May our candles, cards, and carols be a sign that Christ is being born again in us this year. May we be worthy of that gift. Pastor Robin