Twas 11 Days Before Christmas

The identities of the victims who were shot at an elementary school in Connecticut have been released. I braced myself before going over the list. After reading these names, I read a thoughtful poem that reminded me of the words of Jesus,

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2).

Children

  • Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female (age 6)
  • Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male (age 7)
  • Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female (age 6)
  • Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female (age 7)
  • Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female (age 6)
  • Dylan Hockley, 03/08/06, male (age 6)
  • Madeleine F. Hsu, 07/10/06, female (age 6)
  • Catherine V. Hubbard, 06/08/06, female (age 6)
  • Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male (age 7)
  • Jesse Lewis, 06/30/06, male (age 6)
  • James Mattioli, 03/22/06, male (age 6)
  • Grace McDonnell, 11/04/05, female (age 7)
  • Emilie Parker, 05/12/06, female (age 6)
  • Jack Pinto, 05/06/06, male (age 6)
  • Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male (age 6)
  • Caroline Previdi, 09/07/06, female (age 6)
  • Jessica Rekos, 05/10/06, female (age 6)
  • Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female (age 6)
  • Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male (age 6)
  • Allison N. Wyatt, 07/03/06, female (age 6)

Adults

  • Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female (age 29)
  • Dawn Hocksprung, 06/28/65, female (age 47)
  • Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female (age 52)
  • Lauren Russeau, 1982, female (age 29)
  • Mary Sherlach, 02/11/56, female (age 56)
  • Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female (age 27)

Twas 11 Days Before Christmas

Twas 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.
their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
they were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.
they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“this is heaven.” declared a small boy. “we’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
when what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
those children all flew into the arms of their King
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
and as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“may this country be delivered from the hands of fools”
“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
then He and the children stood up without a sound.
“come now my children, let me show you around.”
excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
and I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”
(Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA)

See: Faces of 20 Children to Amazing Grace

Audio clip: Evil does not make sense

14 thoughts on “Twas 11 Days Before Christmas

  1. Keith says:

    This is bad theology and a poor attempt to put a comforting face on the brutal beliefs of evangelical Christianity. What about the children and teachers who weren’t saved, where are they now?

    The story of Noah is instructive at times like this: the Bible tells us God saved Noah and his family, while killing every other man, woman, child and animal on the earth. How many children in that genocide have been in the eternal torment of hell ever since?

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

    • Keith,

      How do you say this is bad theology? Is it your assumption that children who die also come under eternal judgment for rejecting God’s offer of forgiveness and grace? Where does the Bible teach this? Perhaps this is a bad representation of what you assume the Bible teaches. You’ll need more than passing reference to Noah. Also, to whom does God owe mercy and grace? Take a closer look at Luke 13:1-5.

      Steve

      • Lorrie says:

        Keith is corect as far as the adults go, however this poem is about the children. From what I understand, there’s an “age of accountabiity” for children. Jesus was 12 years old when he was in the temple teaching the leaders. At that time he told his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, that he “must be about his Father’s business”. He realized then that he was the Son of God and what his purpose was. I don’t know for sure what the actual number is for the “age of accountability”, but I think it would be older than 6-7. Only God knows.

      • Keith says:

        As an EFCA church, I assumed you were more-or-less Calvinistic. (And yes, I had no right to make that assumption, it was wrong of me. I sincerely apologize for that.)

        I was raised in a Calvinist tradition, and unconditional election doesn’t lead you to child salvation. (I remember a particular sermon where a pastor went so far as to indicate a parent shouldn’t hope for their child’s salvation, as that potentially was a hope to thwart God’s will.)

        The youth pastor was a friend of mine, and he lost a child. I was too young to understand at the time, but it almost broke him. He once told me how the sure knowledge that his child was in hell, having died before he could confess, was unthinkable. I won’t call it a crisis of faith: his faith continued as strong as ever, but he read Scripture and prayed until he finally managed to convinced himself child salvation was a possibility within his faith.

      • Keith says:

        To Lorrie: the “age of accountability” doctrine appears nowhere in Scripture. It’s a common Protestant belief, but the Bible is certainly not declarative and it requires a specific exegesis.

        The Catholics have wrestled with this for centuries: Catholics have believed at various times that an unbaptized child dies in “original sin”, and is not saved, that there is the potential that unbaptized children can be saved, and the classic middle case, “limbo”, where the child gets stuck in the middle.

        There are lots of Biblical verses that cast doubt on the “age of accountability”. Just to give a taste: Proverbs 20:11, Psalms 51:5, Psalms 58:3, or in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 7:14. (The latter is a little obscure, but if God says that children are sanctified by their parents, how can they have been “innocent” or “saved” before that sanctification?) I could go on, but that should serve to illustrate the point: we believe children are “saved” before their age of accountability because we can’t bear to believe anything else, not because the Bible is clear.

  2. Pam says:

    And I kind of think we need to just read it as a poem of comfort. There is a statement at the end, where Jesus is looking to take back our land. Stop picking this poem a part, and just let it minister to people where they are. Don’t close doors, when a heart might be interested in peeking in. If I weren’t a christian, I’d have said, “Gee, that was nice. Now I’ll go back to my land where I’m not being judged and decided upon in my non-christian accountable aged world. They actually like me there”. Hate to start posting on such a dower note, but you guys have to just let words minister, without having to be the authority on them. I think Jesus knows how to meet those who just needed a peek at hope and will sort out their theology later.

  3. Tom says:

    Who are you trying to comfort? If I was a parent who lost a child and I read this, I would be furious. Basically you’re trying to say “sorry you lost your kid, but he’s all smiles in the land of milk and honey so it’s not all that bad”, or more succinctly, “get over it”. That’s supposed to help me cope? I’m all for spirituality, but conjuring up the image of a bunch of kids clad in white robes, singing gaily while they clutch Jesus’ hand and trying to pass it off as a reason for hope is delusional and borderline sick. I have faith in God, but it does not extend to bizarre stories of brutally murdered kids ringing bells and chanting carols in paradise while the rest of the world goes on. Disturbing.

    • On one level, I agree with your concern and doubt I would be offering it to those who just suffered such unimaginable loss. I did however appreciate that for the one who wrote it this was the way he worked through the confusion and grief. As to the truth of the poem, I personally do believe that these children are safe with God forever. While this offers little relief to loss on earth, the alternative is quite tragic. Dead and gone — never to be known, loved and reunited is a sad narrative. It’s also false. But if in the presence of a grieving parent, I wouldn’t do much talking at all. Just being there and caring is enough. Yet I will not take from this man his process for working through the confusion.

      • Dani says:

        Sad! Sometimes I think people don’t think at all. This poem was a beautiful gesture to comfort others at a time of great sorrow. I read this poem to my 4 children who range in ages between 8-14 they all felt it was beautiful including my 12 year old son. What’s wrong with children learning compassion for others. Keith I am sorry but I feel sad for you that you could not see the simplicity in this. I feel that it was meant to comfort other children. Let them believe in the beautiful things in life.

    • Keith says:

      Dani, first, let me say that I responded badly after the incident and Steve’s posting. For that, I apologize. Had I not read this particular poem for a few days, I don’t think I would have replied.

      But you asked, so… I am all in favor of children learning compassion for others, but why can’t children learn compassion for others by having adults teach them compassion for others? And what about the adults, or for that matter, the killer? If you want to have a real discussion about compassion in your family, about what happens when social cohesion breaks down and people lack empathy for others, talk about compassion for the killer — compassion for the victims is easy.

      The sentences that angered me that day were primarily “Let My power and presence re-enter this land! [...] I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools.”

      That has nothing at all to do with compassion, and everything to do with using a tragedy to push a specific religious belief and social agenda.

      It’s a common Christian belief that God isn’t allowed in schools: this time, it was Bryan Fisher and Mike Huckabee saying the Sandy Hook massacre occurred because of the removal of God from public schools.

      First, God was never removed from public schools: students can pray, hold Bible studies and whatever else as much as they like, in school facilities. What the Supreme Court said was the school itself cannot prefer one religion to another, that is, all religions must be treated equally by the school. This would seem fair to anyone from a minority religion or no religion at all; of course, as Christians were the group losing their special privileges, they weren’t happy about a level playing field. As Jon Stewart said, “you’re confusing a war on Christianity with not always getting what you want.”

      Second, when the shooting is at a religious school (Amish school shooting, Oct, 2006) or at a church (Living Church of God shooting, March, 2005) is that because God was removed from the religious school, or from the church?

      Third, since God is omnipresent, the only way to read those lines is that God consciously allowed the shooting to take place, but is now going to take control back from the “fools”. The only possible reply is “if God had taken control back just a few days earlier, 20 children would be with their parents right now”.

      Fourth, thousands of children die every day of starvation and God doesn’t care; twenty children are shot in a US school, and enough is enough! That message angers me.

      Dani, I hadn’t read the poem again since that day, and thinking about your post made me re-read it.

      Steve said something important in one of his postings, where he said “this was the way [the author] worked through the confusion and grief.”

      Let’s look at what the author is saying in this poem.

      Lines 1-18 are about comforting children: they’re happy even after an horrific event, all their concerns are resolved (“I’ll take care of mom and dad”). Lines 19-24 are about God returning in power, “taking back the land”, “taking back the schools”. Lines 25-28 restate the thesis of happy children, lines 29-30 restate the thesis of God’s control.

      I can hear compassion underneath this poem (at least for the parents, attempting to comfort them in their loss.) But on the surface, this poem isn’t primarily about compassion. The surface themes in this poem are victimization (Christian children were killed because of foolish actions of which God does not approve), preference (Christianity is the true religion), and revenge (God is coming back to make things “right”).

      Reading this poem, I don’t hear the author bringing us together after a tragedy, and I don’t hear compassion for anyone not of the author’s tribe.

      So… Christians: when you read this poem to your children, what are the themes you expect them to hear?

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