There is indeed a voice in the wilderness crying this Advent Saturday, but it is not only the voice of John the Baptizer calling us to direct our lives in closer harmony with God’s reconciling mission. It is also and more immediately the voice of our own hearts breaking: the voice of parents and loved ones crying out in unimaginable pain; the voice of shock, disbelief, and anger; the voice of anguish, despair and horror; the voice of people everywhere trying to make sense out of the senseless tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School yesterday. The wilderness of confusion and grief may not be an unfamiliar place to us, but today it seems an especially heartbreaking forlorn place to be.
Like so many others, I have spent much of this day listening to reports from Newtown, Connecticut, reading comments from many sources and offering prayers for the victims, their families, the community of Newtown, the first responders and all those on the scene, as well as the perpetrator of this horrible massacre. While the various “official” reports and details help us piece together some aspects of this tragedy, much more remains to be known and understood. Some things may never be known or understood and certainly no amount of “information” will ever sooth the hearts of those whose children and loved ones were killed yesterday in this horrific event.
In all the complexity of that bleak wilderness, Christian faith proclaims that there is yet another voice crying out. It is the voice of God offering words of comfort, hope and assurance. For some, that voice is at best a whisper today. For others, it is a voice they are not ready or able to hear. But that doesn’t mean God’s voice is not there. We who might be aware, however slightly, of that voice speaking in the midst of this tragedy are invited (gently and appropriately) to let others know that God’s Advent offering is a word of comfort for “those who sit in darkness mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load.” It is a word of hope proclaiming that the “rougher places” will be made “plain.” It is a word of assurance that “light shines in darkness and the darkness will not overpower it.”
As a parent and grandparent, I can’t imagine the pain and grief of those whose children were killed yesterday. Nor can I imagine the heartache of those reeling from the violent death of other loved ones. And then, there are all those children and adults living with the nightmare of having witnessed some aspect of this tragedy first hand and up close. What I do know is that in my own life it has made all the difference when others comforted me in times of grief with gentle words and gestures, and through their prayers. I believe that is what people of faith are called to do now and especially as we gather for worship.
Tomorrow, when Christians gather to celebrate the third Sunday of Advent many of us will hear a reading from Luke’s Gospel about the ministry of John the Baptizer. In the course of that reading we will hear a question the crowds asked John the Baptizer when they “came out to be baptized by him.” The question was, “What then should we do?” Indeed, what then should WE do? John’s response to those seekers is to live lives of generosity, honesty and integrity. Maybe sorting out what that might mean for each of us in the face of yesterday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut is a good place to start our week.
Tonight, I’m still weeping Rachael’s tears and counting on God’s promises.