My house is quiet right now. I put my daughter down for bed about 90 minutes ago. It occurs to me that there are homes in Connecticut tonight that are not as quiet as mine. Those homes are filled with tears and the cries of moms and dads who will never again be able to say they “put their kids to be about 90 minutes ago.”
For the last 8 hours or so I’ve been captivated by the reports coming out of Newtown, CT. A lone gunman entered an elementary school today and killed 20 kids and 6 adults (at least that’s what the most recent updates report). I’ve watched the still pictures of parents racing through police baracades to locate their kids. I’ve seen news reporters pause due to a lump in their throat at the very mention of kindergartners being among the slain. I’ve watched the President of the United States wipe tears away during a news conference because simply reading the words of today’s events would bring most anyone to tears. All of this — the chaos, the evil, the lack of meaning, and reason — can leave you feeling lost.
I suppose it’s natural that we search for answers: Was he mentally ill? Did he have a motive? Who owned the guns used for this massacre?
It’s also normal to plot a proper response: Write your congressman and tell them you want stricter gun laws! We need more security in our schools! Someone needs to champion better healthcare for the mentally ill!
If Advent teaches us anything, it’s that One is promised to us who will bring salvation to the world. And if this tragic event teaches us anything, it’s that we are NOT the authors of our own salvation. It’s hard to admit that we cannot save ourselves no matter how hard we try.
Frankly we need to begin the tough discussion about guns and violence in our society. We need to find ways to talk about these things outside of partisan politics. We need to have a cultural debate about the place of violence in our society when it’s becoming commonplace for people to solve their problems through violent means. We also need to talk about caring for the mentally ill among us. And we need to talk about law and order and securing those who are most vulnerable among us — like children. These are all very important debates to be had.
I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned these debates can take place first thing tomorrow.
Today families are hurting because their babies didn’t come home from school. Today children are without parents and spouses are left without partners. Today a nation is crying out for salvation from the evil that is all too real among us. The time for abstract discussion about policies can wait until tomorrow. Today God is busy weeping with us. Our congressmen and senators cannot save us. President Obama cannot save us. Only God can save us — and we have to come to terms with that.
If this season of Advent means anything, it means we are preparing for the coming of a Messiah — one who will save us — in the form of a helpless and vulnerable baby. And that baby is to be found lying in a manger. Or maybe nursing at the loving bosom of his mother. This mother will tenderly hold that baby not knowing that one day she will also lose him to the violence of this world. And we cannot explain the mystery of why this event is so beautiful, but it just is. Maybe it’s because if violence, tears, and heartache are to be defeated, then they will be defeated by One who knows all too well the consequences of such evil realities.
In the meantime, we grieve with those who are grieving this day. And in our grief we sing the words of the carol when it says says: And in despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth, I said. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. We need you more now than ever. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.