A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.
Lament. Weep. Go ahead and feel it. Refuse to be comforted because those children in Connecticut are no more.
I was driving by myself on Saturday morning when I started to cry. The thought of their unopened Christmas presents did it to me. I don’t know why I thought of it, but the image came to me of loving parents who had bought and wrapped Christmas presents that were never going to be opened and I started to sob like a child myself. Loving parents had sent their children off to school where they were massacred and all the unspoken fears and anxieties I’ve felt sending my children out into this world where horrible things happen washed over me and I cried and cried and didn’t try to stop it.
The anguish of Psalm 79 also came to me. “How long, Lord? …may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.”
When we don’t know what to pray the words of Scripture are the only thing to say. Allow me the liberty of pluralizing the opening lines of Psalm 22 so it can speak for all of us:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?
Why are you so far from saving us,
so far from the words of our groaning?
My God, we cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but we find no rest.
There is no sense to what has happened in Connecticut. There is no sense to what happened at Columbine or at the movies in Aurora or to Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona or at Virginia Tech or on that island in Norway or in Bethlehem when Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents. Rather than seek to understand or rationalize or prescribe, let us embrace the pain and unbearable sadness of the world we live in and the tragedy of human life.
This is Advent, a season of penitence. The candles in the Advent wreath are purple for a reason. It is not Christmas yet. It is the bleak mid-winter. Embrace the darkness of our world and embrace the rhythm of the church. Christmas didn’t start the day after Thanksgiving. It will start on Dec. 25 and last for 12 days until Epiphany. On the second day of Christmas, the day when some of my neighbors have already moved their Christmas trees to the curb, the church remembers the stoning of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. The church called Stephen and other early martyrs comites Christi, “companions of Christ” in His suffering. On Dec. 28 the church remembers the massacre of the innocents by Herod. This is how the church has celebrated Christmas through the ages; a far cry from a turkey and some mistletoe and yuletide carols being sung by a choir and folks dressed up like Eskimos. Advent is for waiting. Christmas is for celebrating both life and death.
Wait. Feel. Don’t compartmentalize. Don’t ignore the tragedy. Don’t ignore the innocence of those children and the brokenness of the world they were born into. Cry about it and get angry about it.
There are no words of comfort to be said yet that will make a bit of difference to the Sandy Hook community, only tears to be shed for the slaughter and this prayer to be sung:
O Come, O Come Immanuel.
There is no sense to what happened at Columbine or at the movies in Aurora or to Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona or at Virginia Tech or on that island in Norway or in Bethlehem when Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents.