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Immanuel - Christmas 2012

Immanuel

 
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”
which is translated, “God with us.” MAT 1:23
 

The Age-Old Question

 
In light of the recent savage and demonic slaying of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the same question is raised as was asked after the terror attack on 9/11, “Where is God when things like this happen?” Seldom is the question an honest one, since those asking it are implying their own answer, “There is no God,” or, “If there is a God, He cannot be loving and compassionate.” I would like to argue that it is just such terrible events that always highlight and prove not only the existence and love of God—but His very presence among us.
 
First, let me urge each and every reader to pray diligently for the loved ones of those precious children, who face a bleak and pain-filled Christmas. They will no doubt relive their great loss for every Christmas to come. Let us pray that each one of them may come to know the comfort that comes from the knowledge that, due to the coming and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, each one of those children are now in His presence, beyond all pain, sorrow, and suffering.
 
But how do we answer the question, “Where is God when such evil acts are committed?” My answer is, “Look for Him in the very presence of the evil.” Unfortunately, our news media are dedicated to magnifying the evil, replaying the gory details over and over. I cannot even imagine the vile motives behind news reporters who would even interview small children who witness and are traumatized by such events. I recommend you read an article addressed to the media on the website www.mamabythebay.com from December 15, 2012, from one who—as a child—endured such blatant and cruel intrusion. But while the news media fiendishly engage in their immoral fascination with the evil, they fail to highlight the evidence of God’s grace and goodness—even when it is obvious.
 
We now know that Adam Lanza had a web page dedicated to Satan. He was called a “devil worshipper” by a fellow student, and was known to spend hours each day playing violent video games. It is not difficult to find the presence of the devil at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Tragically, few care to see the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 

“I am there in the midst of them” (MAT 18:20b)

 
That presence is found in the person of teacher Vicki Soto, whose story has been mostly passed over by the news media.
 
In one of the pitifully few articles I found on her, Vicki is described as a “regular worshipper at the Lordship Community Church in Stratford” (New York Daily News, December 15, 2012). In going to the church website, I was interested to find this statement at the bottom of the page describing the various ministries of the church, “Most of all … we hope you’ll feel the presence of God among us.” That presence was clearly displayed by Vicki when evil was unleashed at the school where she was a teacher. Vicki put her students in a closet before placing herself between the gunman and the children. She valiantly and lovingly lived out the words of her Savior, who said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (JOH 15:13). Vicki was slain for her “little angels,” as she called her students and, in giving her life, became an abiding reminder that the presence of Almighty God is found in His people. Wherever evil is found, we see His people living out His crucifixion, “to fill up in [their] flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (COL 1:24).
 

The Slaughter of the Innocents

 
Even those who deny the existence of absolute standards do not find it difficult to define what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School as pure evil. Such an act of cruel barbarism is a true manifestation of the reality of the devil, who Jesus described as “a murderer from the beginning” (JOH 8:44). However, I would like to draw your minds away from the present to another—but similar—incident that occurred long ago.
 
After the angelic announcement to Joseph cited at the top of this letter, Mary gave birth to her firstborn, and Joseph, in keeping with what the angel commanded, named Him “Jesus” (Yeshua), which means “God’s salvation or the salvation of Jehovah.” It was some time after the birth, while Joseph and Mary remained in Bethlehem, that the Magi (descendants, I believe, of those instructed by Daniel regarding this event, see DAN 2:48 and DAN 9:24-27) arrived. Their questioning of His birthplace brought from the priests and scribes the prophetic answer, “in Bethlehem of Judea,” according to the prophecy of MIC 5:2.
 
King Herod, however, had another response. Fearing any rival—even an infant—he ordered the slaughter of all children two years old and under, bringing to pass the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (JER 31:15; MAT 2:18).
 
The anguish created by this senseless act is being relived by those parents and loved ones of the Sandy Hook community.
 
There is no doubt that someone in the land of Judea, at that senseless slaughter of long ago, asked the question, “Where is God when such things happen?” The answer is that He was there, among them, “Immanuel, God with us.” And though the Holy Family was spared the cruel wrath of Herod, it was so that Jesus might grow to manhood to die on a cross—a much more cruel and agonizing death. His death paid the penalty of all sin and made certain the heavenly home of all children who die. It is my prayer that many of those robbed of their precious children may come to know this blessed comfort.
 
We live in a fallen, sinful world. The anguish of Sandy Hook reminds us that planet Earth is a battlefield upon which mighty spiritual forces are at war. We observe the clash of invisible armies—of angels and demons—in the conflict of good versus evil, and of love versus hate all around us. Yet the loving life and gallant death of Vicki Soto reminds us of a sobering truth. Our politicians and judges may ban Christ from the public square, and prayer from the schools. Our media outlets will continue to turn every tragedy into an orgy of gory details, while ignoring the greater story. And while all those who have no desire to find Him ask “Where is He,” His presence and power will be seen in the lives and actions of those who know and love Him.
 
I do pray that each of you and yours have a blessed Christ-filled Christmas. However-and this may sound strange—I also hope your joys will be tinged with a bit of sorrow, that you will “weep with those who weep” (ROM 12:15), and that you will be moved to pray for those with deeply wounded hearts. I pray that each and every father and mother will love one another—the best gift they can give their children—and that each of us may love our children as the precious gifts from God they are.
 
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (ROM 12:21).
 
By His grace alone,
Gene Cunningham
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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