Reading the harrowing stories of parents who have lost loved ones to gun crime in TIME magazine recently, made me ask again how the Good News of the birth of Jesus Christ could possibly be heard as good news by them.
Parents who find themselves in this most unwanted "club" discover many experiences in common with each other.
First, they discover what many bereaved parents discover, that the initial outpouring of support soon dies, the world moves on, but the families can't - "it's a pain you can't outrun."
Secondly, they are often haunted by the chance involved in such crimes - if only they had kept their child home, if only this, if only that, etc., which leads to anger and to self-judgement.
Third, many families simply fall apart after such horrific crimes, such is the ripple effect of evil and such violence on parents and family.
When I read their sorrowful stories, I asked myself, how can the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ be "good news... of great joy... for all the people"?
Of course we could add a thousand other sorrows to the one above and ask the same question - how is the Gospel good news to hurting people?
The Hope of Justice
In the first place, the birth of Jesus, is the arrival of the Judge of the Universe and therefore the Hope of Justice. One day, the child Jesus, who grew up into a man, died, rose from the dead and now rules in the heavens will return in power and glory - to judge the world in perfect justice. On that day perfect justice will be established.
The Hope of An Empathiser
Secondly, the birth of Jesus signals the birth of someone who has entered into all our sorrows and understands them from the inside. God became flesh so that he could live our life, experience our sorrows, and enter into our grief. You say, "Jesus never lost a child to a bullet", and that is true. But he lost a good friend to sickness and death, Lazarus. He lost his father sometime between the ages of 12 and 30. He knows what it is like to lose someone close to him. And besides all this he has experienced every other sort of earthly sorrow and pain, from emotional abuse at the hands of enemies, to betrayal by a friend, to physical torture and then crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.
In Christ Jesus we have a friend who understands all the sorrows of our life, and stands shoulder to shoulder with us, with a tear on his cheek.
The Hope of a New Life
Thirdly, the birth of Jesus heralds the hope of a new life. Men and women who kill can be transformed by the grace and love of Jesus so that they turn from such evil behaviour. Parents who have suffered the loss of a child can find in their hearts forgiveness and all-surpassing peace. Evil does not need to triumph; good can triumph over evil, with God's help.
The Hope of a New World
Above all, the birth of Jesus heralds the hope of a new world to come, in which there will be no guns, no murder, no sorrow and no death. Jesus made a way for us to inherit that future world, he opened a door into it. Through his suffering, death and resurrection he dealt with the sin that stops us from entering the new heavens and the new earth. He paid for our sin, he set us free, so that when after we die we can enter the new heavens and the new earth.
The greatest hope anyone can possesses, in the face of the greatest sorrow, is the hope of an eternity in the presence of God in a new world of untainted joy. All earthly hopes - as important as they might be - are limited and temporary and uncertain.
Jesus came into the world to give us hope.