Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Week 3: Joy

A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.  Matthew 2:18 

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22

This week of Advent we are supposed to light the candle of Joy.  It is supposed to symbolize the joy that we feel at the coming of Christ and the joy we will experience when he finally sets the world right at the end of all things.  It is supposed to be an inspiration to us to embrace the good news that will be a great joy to all people.

It is hard to be joyful today.

In some ways it is emotionally irresponsible to be so.  This is a time to mourn, to weep, to wail.  It is natural and it is normal.  Jesus wept at the death of his friend and sweat blood anticipating his own.  Grief is not a sign of theological or emotional weakness.

In a season where we are supposed to celebrate the coming of God to earth he feels so very far away.  We ask why this happened even though we know it won’t make sense.  We wonder if we are safe even though we know we aren’t. We celebrate the heroes of Sandy Hook Elementary but it feels hollow because we have been cheated of further fellowship with such great human beings.  This can all get rather depressing.  This tragedy is horrific.

When we read the Christmas story we see that it was not all “Joy to the World” and “Deck the Halls” either.  King Herod in a desperate attempt to kill a perceived usurper to his throne ordered the death of all the children in Bethlehem.  Weak men who feel threatened have done desperate and sick things to assert their “power” throughout history it seems.  In Bethlehem, joy was turned to grief in a heartbeat.

Grief can take many forms and I would encourage us to allow other people space to grieve.  People grieve in different ways and now is not the time to correct their views or jump on them for not being as quick to get over it as you are.  Let them rant on Facebook, let them get quiet at a party, let them tweet “WTF where is God today” and let them say it too.  We all need a little space on this.  In a few more days we can debate policy and repair our theology.  Right now we need to grieve with those who grieve and comfort those who need comfort.

This week as we light the candle of Joy we praise God for those we have and remember those we have lost.  We take comfort in the fact that this is not the end of the story and we are called to work toward a better world.  We grieve for death but also lean hard on the fact that one day God’s kingdom will come and God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord we pray firstly for the community of Newtown.  Joy is going to be especially difficult there for years to come.  We remember each victim and their families and lift them up in prayer.  We pray for healing in the community and for wisdom going forward.  We pray also for what is left of the Lanza family.  God be with them in their grief and remind them that we are as well.

We thank you God for the powerful examples of people who in the most horrific and desperate of situations sought to protect the little ones who you love.  May we find some small amount of Joy in knowing that while lives were taken, lives were also saved.

For those of us that have not lost a loved one, we rejoice in the gift that is life.  We pray that this week we would find Joy in the people who are around us and thank God for another day we get to draw breath.  Remind us Lord that life is precious.

In our grief help us to work toward the good of others.  Remind us that we are not finished.  This world is still broken and hurting and needs people to rush in and be healers and helpers.

In this most difficult time we turn to you.  Jesus be our Joy.  It is hard this week.

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