I did not preach in worship this morning - our church choir had its Christmas Cantata; and hearing their lovely voices proclaim "light shining in the darkness" and "a baby born in a manger" turned out to be the perfect message for our church on a day when so many of us were still overwhelmed with sadness and grief. You can hear the worship service in its entirety HERE.
While I didn't preach, I did take the opportunity to address the shooting in my Prayers of the People this morning. Here's the text of that prayer. Feel free to share with others, and please add your own thoughts of comfort in the comments.**************
Lord, we have just had the pleasure of listening to the “sounds of the season;” the music of our wonderful choir singing songs of great joy – songs of Christmastide and hope and peace and promises fulfilled. About your son, Jesus Christ, born in a manger and wrapped in bands of cloths, and visited throughout the night and over the weeks by wayward shepherds and wise men. About Jesus, being born into our world.
And it is here, God, where we take pause. “Jesus, born into our world” – it sends a chill up our spine when we hear it now. It didn’t last Thursday, or the days before. But for the past three days, it certainly has. We wonder why in the world Jesus would want to come into a world where a madman can take the lives of twenty children and six adults so randomly, so completely, so suddenly? How can we ever welcome Jesus into a world like this?
Our president summed up the thoughts of many: our hearts are indeed broken. And we have been here too many times before. We are shocked, sickened, saddened. We want to hug our children a little tighter; we struggle with what to share with them and what to hide from them. We struggle because, honestly, we’re still trying to wrap our minds around it ourselves.
And we ask individually and as your people, where is the peace and hope we're supposed to seek this time of year? Where is the star in the sky shining light in the midst of such darkness? Where is the Good News??
And it is then when we are reminded of the fact that on that night long ago when Jesus was born, he was not born into a world of peace and hope. There was little good news to be found. There was more darkness than light. There was Roman rule and oppression, and a system fraught with injustice, and a young unmarried pregnant teenager, and a long and grueling trip to Bethlehem, and no room at the inn. It was chaotic, it was crazy, it was out of control. Just like this past Friday.
And so we pray this morning for so many things, God. We pray for our brothers and sisters in Newtown, Connecticut who are having to deal with the unthinkable. We pray for a community in a very dark place this weekend. We pray for our schools here and everywhere who are hit especially hard by this. We pray for our children, who through no fault of their own are born into a broken world of uncertainty and risk.
And as we pray all of this, we pray together as the people of God: Come, Immanuel, Come. Never have those words meant more to us than now. We just want Jesus to get here, and get here as soon as possible. To bring that peace and hope we obviously are in such desperate need of. To give us some good news for a change.
We pray together as the people of God: Come, Immanuel, Come. It's not a catch phrase anymore; not a fancy slogan for the season, not a fun little hymn we sing. It is a heartfelt plea from God’s children for God to be with us in the midst of such turmoil and confusion.
We pray together as the people of God: Come, Immanuel, Come. Bring us songs of joy, calm our hearts, renew our spirits, bring us hope. Hope that shows us love is always, always greater than fear. Hope so that we can live boldly in the world and pave the way for your mighty acts of grace.
We pray together as the people of God: Come, Immanuel, Come. Come, even as a baby born into a world of darkness, vulnerable and at risk as all our children are. Come into our world and bring us light, bring us warmth, bring us love. Bring us peace. Because now that we think about it, baby Jesus, your birth could not have come at a better time.
We pray all of these things in the name of Jesus, who is coming soon, who is here right now, and may all of God’s children say, AMEN.