A Wartime Christmas

    A few evenings ago, I watched a several-years-old video called SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE. In one scene, Santa flies his sleigh right over the top of the World Trade Center towers. Another sad reminder that things will never be the same. This Christmas finds our country at war. In homes across America, terrorism has taken its toll. Loved faces are missing from family dinner tables. Bewildered children mourn fathers and mothers who kissed them goodbye, got on a plane, and never came back. In other homes, parents turn their eyes to the news, anxious for soldier sons, far away in harm's way. Some families, still raw with grief, are asking: "How could God let this happen? If he really loves me, why didn't he save MY child, MY husband, MY mother?" We must be very tender when our neighbors ask these questions. We know that when it comes to understanding God's purposes, we "see through a glass darkly," as Paul wrote to the Corinthians. But we do know that God loved us so much that he made us free moral agents, able to choose either good or evil. The first humans, Adam and Eve, exercised that choice -- and chose to disobey God. Humanity ever after has been bent toward sin -- what Christians call the Fall. On September 11, we saw an example of the Fall and its consequences: Raw, naked evil committed by men who made evil choices. Could not a loving God have erased the consequences of sin? Sure -- but then we'd no longer be free moral agents. Without consequences, there are no real choices. God cannot simultaneously offer us a free choice and then compel one choice over another -- which is what would happen if he stopped all evil. Okay, people say. "But how do we cope with monstrous evil? How do we respond when it strikes our homes and hearts?" The answer may be found in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who spoke last month at a memorial service for the British victims of September 11. "I am reminded," he said, "of a dear friend who lost his three children in separate accidents. One day I asked him: 'Have you and your wife never asked of God "why?"'" "Of course I have asked God 'Why?'" his friend gently replied. "But I soon discovered that is not the right question. The proper question is 'How?' How may I use my suffering to help others and to point the way to God's love?" We see the same response to evil by the wife of an American victim: Lisa Beamer, the widow of Todd Beamer, one of the heroes of United Flight 93. On the Todd Beamer Memorial Foundation website, you'll find these words penned by his widow: "My family and I still wrestle with what has happened but [we] are comforted with the knowledge that a sovereign God is in control and that 'God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.'" And then she quotes from Deuteronomy 31: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God . . . will never leave you nor forsake you." Please continue to pray for the victims of terrorism -- and for the safety of those who are fighting against it. And on this day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we should remember his comforting words: "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." On this day, a Merry Christmas to all who are listening (and reading)! For more information: The Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon at Westminster Abbey at the memorial service on 29 November 2001 can be read here. The Todd M. Beamer Foundation.


Chuck Colson



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