Saturday, December 15, 2012

Light in the Darkness






Our spirits have been through much since our Facebook feeds lit with news of a senseless tragedy in a storybook small town in Connecticut. How could any person kill his mother, enter her place of vocation and then kill more than a dozen children? How could anyone be so overcome with evil? Is there any place that is completely safe today?

My tendency yesterday was to go on a rampage about gun control. I hate guns. My father and I have been bantering over gun laws since 1994 when I worked for a Member of Congress who lost hundreds of votes and an election when he voted in support of a ban of semi-automatic handguns. It was during that year when I started making donations to Handgun Control in order to cancel my father's donations to the National Rifle Association. I cannot understand why anyone in our country needs a military style assault weapon tucked inside a cabinet in a closet in the basement or placed beneath the bed. Eighteen years have passed since I learned of Congress' inability to make lasting change on gun control, and hundreds of additional lives have been sacrificed and slaughtered since our argument started.

I then glued my eyes to the news, allowing my spirit to be transported to Newtown. I imagined myself as a child who miraculously got out. I thought about what it would be like to be a parent not yet united with a child who I had kissed good-bye less than five hours earlier as I rushed out the door to get to work on time. I sought to think about the twenty-year old person who had the gun - a child himself when I saw his picture for the first time.

And then my thoughts turned to Advent - to this season of waiting and watching for a savior who has come and is coming again. I thought about the mess into which Jesus was born - a borrowed barn in Bethlehem because there was no room for him at the inn. I recalled the words of the prophets of long ago who told all generations of one who was to come and why this one was desperately needed. The words of the prophets are painted amidst a background of darkness of oppression to a people who know violence, unrest, hunger and thirst. And still the prophets proclaim with all their passion that people must hold on. One is coming who will make all things right.

And the one came.

And when he got here he immediately threatened the powers of the day. In the book of Matthew, Herod got word of the birth of Jesus and did everything possible to find Jesus. The wise men told Mary and Joseph of Herod's hot pursuit, and encouraged them to flee to Egypt until Herod died.

We then read words of horror that are often overlooked in the Christmas story. "When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under...." (Matthew 2:16).

There is darkness all around the birth of Jesus. Countless kids were killed. And yet, the Savior, the Prince of Peace, the Mighty One survived. And he continues to live and rule today.

His light has been shining into darkness for more than 2000 years. His light has power to penetrate into every place where darkness seems to have a hold - into mental illness, into senseless tragedy, into grief, into loss, into unspeakable sadness. And the darkness has never and will never overcome the light.

Are you trying to find hope in this situation? Are you at a loss in your efforts to make sense of them?

Nothing about what happened yesterday makes sense. It is filled with darkness and evil. But the message of Advent - the reason that thousands of people will gather in churches tomorrow - is that Emmanuel has come. We will sing again tomorrow "O Come O Come Emmanuel." We need him today like never before. It is Emmanuel's life, death, resurrection and promise of his coming again that enables me to find hope in the hopeless, to experience peace in the grief and to know that the light has come and will continue to come.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

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