It is Wednesday evening. Less than a week before Christmas. Many groups gathering to celebrate find their conversation drawn to the families and community in Newtown CT. Our hearts continue to ache for this tear in the fabric of our common life. Tragedy so often wakes us to our connection to one another and for a period of time we move through our own days aware that we are not alone.
As we prepare to celebrate the ‘birth’ of a baby so long ago, we all have a sense of what a ‘mother’s heart’ can feel like. This year that feeling is more poignant for we are grieving our loss while welcoming new life. Below I share a reflection offered weekly by Bishop Porter Taylor in the Diocese of Western North Carolina. May it offer insight and comfort…
You hear the news and a part of you breaks because a part of the world is broken. I heard the news last Friday, but I really didn’t hear it. Something awful happened in Connecticut. I was busy with being the bishop and being a new grandfather and beginning to think about Christmas. I was too distracted with my life to allow the heartbreak of the world to touch me. But it did. It more than touched all of us.
And it opened us up. We wept for children and parents we never met. We wept because pain is pain and grief is grief and loss is loss. Someone once said, “There are no strangers in sorrow.” It’s true. Newtown, CT became Everywhere.
There will be time for us as a country to act upon our resolves to change the way we live. We know we need to do something about too many guns and too little care for our brothers and sisters with mental illness. We know this and we must.
But right now, we need to hold and be held by the God of compassion who opens us up to hold one another. On Sunday, I found I had to preach about the shootings in Newtown. I remembered that Mary holds her son at the beginning and end of the gospels: the Madonna and the Pieta. The Incarnation means God is in all of our lives — birth and death; joy and pain. You cannot have one without the other. There’s a legend that the wood for the crèche is used as the wood for the cross because the Christ who saves us is embedded in all our experiences. It’s why three days after Christmas we remember The Feast of the Holy Innocents. The Savior doesn’t stop tragedy but his love and grace and mercy are present everywhere.
I know Jesus weeps with the parents and people of Newtown just as I know he embraces into his arms of everlasting life the children and adults who were killed. Only his love is strong enough and wide enough to hold all of this. I hope our belief in him carries us through to a new vision of how he calls us to live together. We don’t merely need new laws; we need bigger hearts and a wider sense of communion. We need the Savior of the world to be born again and to make us new.
Since Saturday, my prayer has simply been “Christ have mercy.” His mercy is the only force strong enough and deep enough and wide enough to bind us together in peace. Now more than ever we pray the prayer of Advent, “Come Lord Jesus.”