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. – John 1:1-5
Darkness . . . Advent begins in darkness, a time of waiting and yearning for something better. Waiting for light.
My dark Advent memories include holly berries and greenery adorning my grandmother’s casket, a macabre trip to the Christmas tree farm a day after my mother’s cancer diagnoses, and the Christmas morning my bipolar aunt overdosed on lithium. This year – December 2012 – it will be the memory of 20 children and 6 teachers gunned down in their school.
I was cushioned from the news of the Newtown school shooting over the weekend because I was out of town with some friends. I returned home to find social media abuzz with panicked, angry cries of “God has abandoned us” because of homosexuality, the absence of prayer in schools, abortion, the vanishing morals of our society and the list goes on. Ah, well as Brené Brown says, “Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort.”
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” – Matthew 1: 23
I’ve seen a number of wonderfully eloquent responses from faith leaders saying, “No. No, God has not abandoned us, and God did not abandon those children or their teachers on December 14, 2012.” And I feel that it is important for me to add my voice to theirs. The God in whom I believe does not abandon, nor does God will the brutal murder of children and teachers. The living God of love and grace, whom I have encountered again and again in my life, is continually doing the creative work of redeeming the world to God-self. This creative God does not will destruction, but is at work in the world despite the forces of destruction. I believe that God’s will for us is always wholeness and human dignity, and that God calls us to be co-creators in God’s holy work.
There is perhaps no better evidence of this God of grace than the Christmas Story, because the Christmas Story is about a God of unfathomable love who chooses to become incarnate and live among us. This God chooses to become incarnate through a very specific person, in a very specific time and place. God chooses to become incarnate through an impoverished Jewish, teenager, living under unspeakable oppression in first century, Roman-occupied Palestine. But wait, there’s more! This God also chooses to be born in a barn amidst stench and shit. Then for birthday presents, this God, who shows up as a helpless infant, is given frankincense and myrrh – ointments used to prepare a body for burial. The shadow of the cross looms large over the manger scene. The gritty reality is far more macabre than what we depict in pageants and coloring pages.
And so I say, this is not a God who abandons. This is a God who has come to be Emmanuel, God is with us, in the midst of the suffering and shit of this world. This is a God who says, comfort the afflicted, and blessed are those who mourn. This is a God who invites us, not to blame and lash out at one another, but to be co-creators in God’s holy work of life and light. Advent starts in darkness, but then . . . Arise, shine; for your light has come, and there is work to do. There is holy, creative, redemptive work to do.
Other Good Responses to the Newtown Tragedy:
I’ll post more as I see them.