Wednesday, December 19, 2012


In most weeks, I spend Friday with my family. Unless a funeral or conference or some other immovable obligation comes up, Friday is the day when I get to take my kids to school, to work around the house, to have lunch with Elizabeth, to pick the kids up from school, and to spend the afternoon with them. Perhaps I am compensating for the rest of the week, but I really enjoy devoting my Fridays to our family. Last week, I made it through most of Friday blissfully unaware of the news that eventually captured everyone’s attention, but, midway through the afternoon, I checked a newsfeed on my phone and discovered what much of the world had already learned.

I confess that I am the kind of person who prefers to deal with pain and sorrow privately. Although I am puzzled by individuals who use television or radio interviews to express their grief, I recognize that this horrific event has touched nearly every single one of us—silent or not. Regardless of how you are dealing with the death of those twenty-eight human beings, twenty of whom were first-graders, I expect that the images and reports from that community have given you some sense of sorrow, confusion, and vulnerability. For a few of us, this particular tragedy has awakened within us other feelings of loss, and, as the season of Christmas approaches, coping with those dark emotions can be crippling.

Every Christmas, there are those among us who feel sadness more strongly than joy. While the rest of us are singing carols and exchanging presents, they wake up to a day that reminds them of the losses in their life. As Callie preached a few weeks ago, there are some in our congregation whose Christmas cards are a reminder of who is not pictured in them—absent faces of those who have died or who have been separated from us because of broken relationships. Although our whole nation will hold in our hearts the echoes of the pain of Newtown, most of us have a hard time imagining just how painful the holidays can be.

Over the weekend, I used social media like Twitter and Facebook to observe how other preachers and their congregations attempted to deal with Friday’s massacre. The posts that touched me most deeply were the various ways in which individuals and groups expressed the inexplicable hope that is the very foundation of Christianity. The words that resonated most clearly in my heart were those which sought not to explain the tragedy nor predict how or when healing would come but that still articulated the most profound mystery of our faith—our resolute belief that somehow new life springs from death. As I think about the other ways in which people are hurting this season, I find that those same words speak directly to that pain. We do not know how or when, nor do we seek to understand why, but we always cling to the hope that God knows our pain and promises us true healing.

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