Our hearts break for Aleppo.
We see the images of a city shattered into ruins by nearly five years of war culminating in the intense shelling this week meant to bring those who oppose the government to their knees. We reach for our wallets as we see mothers and fathers carrying their babies—to where? Nowhere is safe. The videos of people showing us what was happening in what they believed to be their last minutes of life make us shudder with grief. I hang my head between my hands with the inhumanity of it all.
The city has fallen. And thousands are trapped. As I write, a ceasefire is in effect, and evacuation of tens of thousands of people has begun. I hope this is still true by the time you read.
Christmas is a little over a week away. Here in the US and in many other countries, we are shopping, mailing packages, writing cards, trimming trees, hanging lights.
The lights give me pause. Driving down the street in the evening, holiday lights look cheery and inviting against the stark darkness.
And I think of Aleppo again, where the burning darkness encroaches and nothing is left to rebuild and put lives back together.
Lights are reassuring beacons of hope. Our instinct is to move out of darkness and into light. I have a friend who occasionally sends me a song when she thinks maybe I need its message. The great J. S. Bach wrote a beautiful chorale that comes near the end of his Christmas Oratorio.
I do need this message. Syria needs this message. The world needs this message.
Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
and usher in the morning.
You shepherds, shrink not with affright,
but hear the angel’s warning.
This child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be,
the power of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.
The Christian faith has existed in Syria for 2,000 years. Syria is not so far from Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace was weak in infancy. Our world needs the breaking, beauteous heavenly light just as much now as thousands of years ago.
May we all receive this light and carry it forth so that wars may cease and the world come out of darkness.