Sunday, December 16, 2012
Worship at Open Table yesterday was a beautiful service of Lessons and Carols. After the reading of the final lesson from the Gospel of John, I offered these words:
Today is traditionally the Sunday in Advent when we light the candle of Joy. For several reasons I had weeks ago decided that we’d change the order this year and light the candle of Love today, saving the candle of Joy for next Sunday. Maybe that was prescient. Maybe on this Sunday we need the focus on God’s love. And maybe joy will be a word we can hear later.
The cookie baking party with eleven creative, loving, and delightful children yesterday was certainly joyful, and it was one way we could do what our President recommended on Friday: That we all “hug our children a little tighter and . . . tell them that we love them, and . . . remind each other how deeply we love one another.” That is, of course, what we as a faith community try to do each and every time we gather. How we grieve for those who are this day unable to hold their children close.
Hear now these Gospel words from John 1:1-5.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Our Lessons and Carols service this evening will soon conclude as we sing “Silent Night” while lighting our individual candles from the flame of the Advent candle of Love. Though our individual candles may glow feebly, we find hope in Gospel assurance that God’s light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not—and will not—overcome it. We believe this Gospel truth.
Yet our hearts are left to ponder the imponderable. Since last Friday’s news from Connecticut, you and I have struggled to fathom the unfathomable, to explain the inexplicable. Our minds search for answers and solutions. And indeed we need to use brain cells and human resources and political will to reduce violence. We must look at gun control legislation and mental health interventions. We must examine the media’s role and even, as one source I read yesterday asserts, recognize that white Americans often assume violence is “out there” and thus miss signs of violence in white communities. We need wide-ranging research and courageous leadership.
We do not, as people of faith, need to fall back on religious platitudes that dodge responsibility and eschew good sense—as, unfortunately, Mike Huckabee did in theorizing the Newtown shooting was the result of taking God out of our schools. Our commitment to nonviolence requires the problem-solving of good minds.
But let us ground smart thinking and courageous action in a spirituality that says the answer is within our hearts, too. We must begin with a place of compassion for all and with a faith in God’s love. Our trust is not in guns. Our faith is not in the Second Amendment. We will not sacrifice any more precious ones to the God of Violence. We will not.
On this evening it is fitting that the Advent Candle of Love is lighting the way. In the vast darkness that falls around us, that one candle seems inconsequential. But by that one candle we can light other candles—as we will in a few moments. By attending to the voice of love within, we can carry our one light into the world, and know we are not alone, know we can help light the flame of love in others.
I share now a link that I’ve passed along to my congregation to aid parents as their children begin to hear about the tragedy in Newtown, CT.