These are the words I will share with my congregation this morning. I thought I would also share them with you. - TJ
Scripture tells us that for everything there is a season, but today everything seems out of season.
We know that there is a time to be born, and a time to die, but we expect those times to be separated by as many as 80, 90, even 100 years. Not 5 or 6.
We are in the season of advent, a time which is meant to be filled with joyful anticipation. It is not supposed to be a season of grief, of heartache, of pain beyond speaking and beyond words. But the shadow of a gunman threatens to overshadow our hope and snuff out our joy.
On this third Sunday in Advent, we are supposed to light the pink candle in our advent wreath, which symbolizes joy.
But how can we express joy after the events of Newtown, Connecticut?
How can we speak of a good God, a loving God, a merciful God as we look over the bodies of 27 people including 20 children?
How can we speak a word of joy and hope when we are in the midst of such sadness and despair?
I think there are two answers, at least. The first is that we speak of joy and hope because they are all that we have in the darkest times, and without them the sadness and despair might threaten to overwhelm us.
Psalm 30 tells us that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
The clock may say it is mid-morning, but we are still in the middle of the night when it comes to our weeping. But still we believe that joy cometh in the morning.
We speak of joy and hope not because we are feeling joy and hope right now.
We speak of them because we believe that we will feel them again.
We speak them because when we are surrounded by darkness we need to remember that there is light.
But the second answer is that we speak of joy and hope not as a way to deny or ignore the sadness. It would be cruel to suggest to the parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends and loved ones of the victims of this act of terror that they should put aside their days old grief in order to speak words of joy and hope. We should not deprive them of their right to grieve, to cry, to scream in agony or anger.
That would be cruelty.
No, we should stand beside them and surround them with our presence. We should surround them with our silence. We should guard our hearts and our tongues and prevent them from offering platitudes or answers or explanations.
Let no one say that God needed one of these little ones to serve as an angel in heaven. No, the God I believe in, the God I read about who sent Jesus to the world not to condemn the world, but to save it, God did want this.
We do not believe that God ever needs the death of an innocent, for any purpose.
God weeps with us today.
Let no one place blame for this tragedy anywhere except where it belongs: at the hands of a man who used guns and bullets to kill those who deserved to live. Let no one take advantage of 20 dead children, 4 dead teachers, a dead principal, and a dead school psychologist for their own purposes.
We surround them with our silence in order to make sure that we do not say well-intentioned words which serve to comfort us more than them. We surround them with our silence so that we do not portray God as the type of monster who would ever will the death of innocents for any purpose. We surround them with our silence so that they might see our tears and hear our cries and know that they are not alone.
We will not coerce them to pretend to feel joy they do not feel. We will not push them to pretend to be hopeful when they feel hopeless. We will not rob them of their right to grieve and lament. They have already had too much taken from them. We will take no more.
Instead, let us give to them.
Let us give to them our tears and our heartache.
Let us give to them our compassion.
Let us give to them our presence.
Let us offer to them a reminder of hope that they do not feel today but we pray they will feel again someday.
Let us offer to them a reminder of joy they do not feel today but we pray they will feel again someday.
Let we who have faith in God offer our belief that although God did not want to see these 26 souls so soon, God still welcomed them with tears in His eyes.
Let we who call ourselves Christians remember that we proclaim faith in a God who knows what it is like to see His innocent Son die, even though He had shown the world only love and compassion.
And then let us say no more.
Let us not reach for words which are beyond us. Let us offer no explanations for that which is senseless. For even our joy is tainted with sadness, and this we cannot and will not deny.
We cling to our belief that the light came into the darkness, and that the darkness did not overcome it, even today when it seems like the darkness threatens to overwhelm us.
And so let us light a candle for joy, even if it only reminds us that we do not feel joyful. Let us light other candles for our sorrow, let us light other candles in memory of those who were murdered, let us light as many candles as it takes to fight back the darkness. Then let us stand together in silence.