Two weeks have passed since our country gasped at the tragic loss of lives, young and old, in Newtown Connecticut. As the days drew closer to Christmas, the challenge to prepare for the celebration of new birth was daunting. We approached Christmas Eve humbly – straining to give thanks for God-among-us as we sang, ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’. Families everywhere held one another with greater intent ~ there has been a renewed understanding of how important it is to treasure our moments with one another. So – in many ways – Christmas came just in time this year. With its arrival time stopped long enough for us to truly see one another and slowed our pace to hold the families and community of Newtown in our thoughts and prayers with more focus.
Two weeks have passed since that horrific day. Christmas Day has past and while many trees are still shining bright we meet this morning to remember another time in history when the unthinkable occurred. On the church calendar for the Episcopal Church, today we pause in prayer and thought in memory of the hundreds of children killed by a King in Jerusalem angered by the news of a newborn child who had come to bring peace and serve justice.
Timely? Maybe – but only in its placement on the calendar. We are always in need of the seasons, warm and peace-filled, as they renew us and give us strength. For the majority of our faith journey is found in the harsh light shone on this world. Today we remember the loss of innocence hundreds of years ago while still grieving the loss so very recent.
Our song continues – ‘O Come, O Come…’
You can find more reflection and prayer below:
One of the more striking contrasts on the Christian calendar is the commemoration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, three days after the celebration of Christmas. In remembering the young children slaughtered by King Herod in Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth, the Church jolts us from Christmas joy into a contemplation of the ways in which violence and human brokenness, in spite of Christmas, still enslave the human race. Today, just as two thousand years ago, the most jolting violence of all is that committed against innocent children.
This year, that jolt came earlier, and much more tangibly, than it normally does. The murder of 26 innocent victims, many of them children, in a schoolhouse in Connecticut in the waning days of Advent ripped through the joy of Christmas for millions. As our hearts and minds struggle to comprehend the tragedy of young lives cut short, Holy Innocents Day this year offers an opportunity for grace, hope, and inspiration for the days ahead. It offers an opportunity “to awaken us” as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her message immediate after the shootings, “to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day” and challenge us “to work toward a different future.” (taken from Episcopal News Service)
Loving God, Jesus gathered your little ones in his arms and blessed them. Have pity on those who mourn for the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, innocents lost to the violence of our fallen world. As all things are possible with you, redeem this horror with the immensity of your love, and lead us to somehow love those who are responsible, filling our hearts with a spirit of forgiveness. Be with us as we struggle with the mysteries of life and death; in our pain, bring your comfort, and in our sorrow, bring your hope and your promise of new life, in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen. ( EPISCOPAL GENERATIONS )