Last week, the world wept.
Less than two weeks before Christmas, suddenly all the present-buying and chocolate, the tinsel and sparkle, seemed futile. Garish. Wrong.
When we pictured those children arriving at school inNewtown, when we looked at the photographs of the teachers who had lost their lives trying to save them, we saw ourselves.
We recoiled from our television and computer screens to clutch our families tight.
All through the twittersphere, across Facebook, we shared our sorrow and disbelief at the sheer evil that brutally, violently cut life short before its time.
The sanitised Christmas story, at a time like this, can feel like one big, ridiculous platitude.
How can we go to carol concerts and sing about a tiny baby coming to rescue the world, when children are dying? How can we believe in peace on earth, and goodwill to men, when children are dying? It seems like an insult.
We can try to give too many neat answers with our Christianity. We reason like children, when we see in a glass darkly. We theorise and theologise, and we still sound like a banging gong or a clashing cymbal.
But groaning is a start.
And it’s more biblical than the silent, halo’d, Victoriana baby we like to put on our mantelpieces above the stockings stuffed with tat.
The real baby was born into filth, and his birth kick-started a massacre of children even younger than those in Newtown. He wept and suffered and groaned and loved.
We are waiting, waiting for a world where there’s no more suffering, but it’s sure as hell not here yet.
We’re groaning, like we’re in childbirth, and that child is taking an age to come.
We need to keep groaning. Not just for those murdered children who went to a school like the ones we went to, and not just for that beautiful, blue-eyed, heroic teacher.
We need to keep groaning for the millions of people we don’t easily identify with, who aren’t headlining the news every day but are suffering and dying anyway.
And out of that groaning, we need to get angry, to take action, to love.
Because otherwise, we’re about as Christlike as that Victoriana baby. And we are the insult.