For the second time in 3 weeks, our nation is in shock. Firstly, it was because cricketer Phil Hughes died after being struck in the head while batting. Yesterday, a man laid siege to the Lindt Cafe in Sydney for 16 hours. We all watched on TV. At the end of it, he was killed, along with two innocent hostages.
Whereas the first tragedy left us stunned because we’re not used to coping with the tragedy of young, fit men being killed in their prime, yesterday’s events have left us feeling angry, sceptical, fearful, and anxious about reprisals.
Both events saw communities rally. The death of Phil Hughes reverberated around the world, not just in cricket circles, but in all sports. Many sports around the globe paused for 63 seconds of applause either before they began playing, or at the 63-minute mark. In addition there was the #putoutyourbat tribute. The Lindt Cafe tragedy also reverberated around the world because of other acts of terrorism that have occurred in the past. The difference this time was that it was in our city, not “over there” somewhere. Our community has rallied via the #illridewithyou campaign where people reached out, especially to those of the Muslim faith, to ride with them to work lest they be fearful of reprise attacks because of their religion. Mateship is stronger than terror, they say. Also, today in Martin Place, there has been an outpouring of emotion as people come to gather, to pay their respects, and lay down flowers in memory of those who died.
Does God care? Did God care when Phil Hughes was hit by the cricket ball that burst his vein and caused a haemorrhage in his brain? Did God care about the siege yesterday, about 3 lives lost, about the fear and terror that gripped the city?
The prophet Isaiah says about Jesus “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) God sent a child into the world. Not just any child, but His own Son. Jesus is the Wonderful Counsellor who comforts us in our troubles. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who brings true peace to the world – the peace of being in relationship with God.
When the angel appeared to Joseph he said “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23)
Does God care? Yes! Jesus was born so that he could save us from our sins. He would grow up, and suffer at the hands of violent men. But his suffering wasn’t a waste, even though he too, was innocent. His suffering was meaningful and purposeful – to die in our place, to take the punishment we deserve, to demonstrate God’s love for us, to bring us true and lasting peace.
At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus, the one who came to save his people from their sins. Right now Australians need Christmas more than ever. I’m all for mateship, but I’m more for Jesus. For without Christmas, and what followed for Jesus, we would be left grasping for answers when none are there. But because of Christmas, God is with us, God has dealt with evil, and true lasting peace is available if we put our trust in Him.
Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)