Not the end of the story…
I am not a poet, but sometimes I wish I was. I often find myself wanting but unable to use words to describe my emotions or reactions to a situation. Throughout the day last Friday, as the tragic story from Sandy Hook Elementary unfolded, I found myself filled with grief and disbelief. Such tragic stories often spring in us a yearning to do something to help. Yet, thousands of miles and hearts away, we are limited in our options for immediate action. Wishing I had words to put to my emotions, I turned to tears and something that is almost as natural to me as tears, words I have repeated hundreds of times throughout my life growing up in a Lutheran church, “Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy…” These words, so simple, yet so profound connect me to a larger narrative, the narrative that is our story here on earth, a story in which pages and pages are filled with unspeakable tragedy, insurmountable grief, and unimaginable pain.
So what do we do when something like this wakes us up to the reality of that narrative? When problems like where to get last-minute Christmas gifts and what to serve on Christmas dinner, go from heavy on our mind to trivial? When fear, grief, and sadness break into our everyday lives in a shocking way?
People have many different opinions on how we should react and many are more than willing to share those opinions in blunt ways through any outlet possible. I am not here to dismiss or embrace any of those opinions, and I realize the importance of taking this time to reevaluate and ultimately look for actions to prevent such occurrences. Though, I sometimes wonder if quick and mighty reactions to promote a platform or a sweeping social change have behind them some motivation to mask the pain, ignore the bigger story that we, as powerful and in control as we sometimes feel and want to be, are indeed powerless to stop the earthly narrative that inevitably involves despair.
The season of Advent has something to offer us in light of our stark wake up call to this reality. All too often we want to jump right past Advent to the joy of Christmas. Yet, in doing so we miss out on a deeper more complete experience of our narrative. Despair is a part of the story, but it is not the end of the story.
This Advent season we are joined to…
the Israelites who suffered in captivity in Egypt and Babylon
the parents whose young children were ordered by King Herod to be killed during the time of Jesus’ birth
the families ripped apart in war torn countries
the people who mourn the loss of loved ones
and the parents, teachers, children, and families who will never forget and will be forever marked with the tragedy from Dec. 14th 2012.
We are joined to them not because we know exactly how they feel, but because we share together in an ultimate narrative of humanity.
We join them all in longing for the day when the despair will end. On Christmas we get a glimpse of the end of that despair, knowing that one day we will be reconciled to our Father, freed from our pain. Yet we still wait and long for the day when Jesus will come again, to wipe away every last tear from our eyes. So this season we to hug our children, enjoy time with our families, celebrate the season, but with hope we also mourn, we groan, and we yearn, with all of creation for the ultimate rest from it all.