As did many clergy, I faced a dilemma with this Sunday’s message after the events of Friday’s massacre of children.
For Advent this year, I had decided to do a series I called “From Barren to Baby” and speak of some of Jesus’ ancestors, particularly those whose stories started with the barren woman scenario. I learned long ago that when a passage in the Bible begins to speak of a woman unable to have children, it is code for, “Pay attention!!! Something important is about to happen!”
So, we’ve looked at the Abraham-Sarah-Hagar saga and then at the very strange story of Judah and Tamar, filling in a few of the details between the two. Next Sunday, I’ll speak of Ruth’s journey from childless Moabite to grandmother of the greatest ever king of Israel. But today, I moved out of the ancestry line a bit and went to Hannah’s story about the conception of Samuel.
We have three services each Sunday and I readily admit that our first service, very small in attendance and always accompanied by Holy Communion, is also my practice hour for the other two services. For the two later services, I use the screen to move my message from point to point so that the congregation can more easily follow, and more easily remember what we are talking about. The first service does not use screens other than to project an image appropriate for the season. However, I use my printouts of the visuals to direct my words and thoughts.
The slide below was intended as the last slide before my concluding remarks.
It turned out to be the transition point to connect the events in Newtown, CT with the birth of the Savior.
I reminded us all that every baby born changes the entire world in some way or another. Some in huge, history-recorded ways, like Samuel and, obviously, Jesus. Some obscurely, but even so, every family is changed when a baby is born and when a family is changed, so is everyone around them, and so on. No one leaves this world untouched. I also reminded us all that the young man who brought this unimagined sorrow this past week was more than likely welcomed and loved when he was born, as was every child and adult who has now died as a result of his life. Each of them changed the world in some way, and left their own indelible mark upon it.
It is from broken, messy people that the Redeemer of the world emerged. It is because of their stories that we could indeed light the candle of joy today, for joy has nothing to do with happiness, and all to do with acknowledging the presence of God in the midst of our sorrows. We have not been abandoned. We continue to have the privilege of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world no matter what is happening around us or to us.
The Savior has indeed come, and in the time of preparation we call Advent, we may know that the light is getting closer.
Yes, there is immense pain, and it will never fully recede for those most closely affected by these events. But the darkness will not overcome the light. On that promise, we may stand, however shakily, and however shaken to our core by our tears. My prayers are with all who are feeling this so painfully.