You may not think this post is very Christmassy.
woke up Friday morning, as many of you did, to news of a shooting in
an elementary school in Connecticut. It was joined later in the day by
reports of a mass stabbing at an elementary school in China.
Twitterverse raged with visceral grief for the families, anger at the
shooter, shock and horror at a kind of tragedy that is becoming all too
familiar, conspiracy theories about whichever particular political party
or organization is to blame, opinions about how to fix it all, outrage
at the media’s tactics, fear for the soul of our society, and gratitude
for the safety of their own families. Some urged prayer; others,
judgment; others, action; others, legislation. I confess to running in
all of these directions at once.
No, not very Christmassy.
had planned to tell you a story from my childhood that illustrated in
a humorous way the central point of Advent. The story I’ll keep, but the
point is still appropriate: Advent is trusting Christ to show up in the
middle of our mess. Today, when we see violence up close and personal
committed against the vulnerable in our society, we don’t need to be
reminded just how messy humanity can be.
most recent shooting is the 31st school shooting since Columbine. There
have been more victims of violence in other mass shootings in
workplaces, public centers and houses of worship. Every year in the US
alone, there are over 100,000 victims of gun violence; nearly a third of
these shootings are fatal. That’s about 266 people shot every day, and
86 fatalities (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
Not to mention victims of other kinds of weapon-related violence. We
could pile it on: domestic abuse, psychological abuse, hunger, poverty,
sexual assault, and oh, so much more.
What a mess. But it’s Advent. And Advent is trusting Christ to show up in the middle of our mess. So where is Christ?
Apostle Paul compared the church, the followers of Jesus, to the body
of Christ. In other words, people experience Christ through the ones who
claim to follow his teachings. When we follow Jesus into the mess,
Christmas happens. When we trust that God’s kin-dom offers a better
reality for all, and we choose to live into that reality now despite
truly terrible circumstances, Christmas happens. When there is no
theological easy answer, when the only thing that works is love and
presence, Christmas happens.
It’s the only reason Christmas ever did.
may not have the shine of tinsel or the cheer of a lustily sung carol,
but Christmas happens when we follow Jesus into the mess and offer what
hope, comfort, peace, grace, and joy we can. If you want to find Jesus
this Christmas, just look for the nearest mess, and see who is quietly
sweeping up the shattered lives and piecing them together again.
for the people of Newtown and Chenpeng. Pray for the shattered families
in their confusion and grief. Pray for the teachers, administrators,
and students who survived as they cope with the trauma in the months to
come. Pray for the first responders who are branded with these horrible
images as they seek security and justice. Pray for the therapists,
counselors, and pastors who will help people pick up the pieces of their
lives and community. Pray for the shooter and all those so broken and
damaged that violence becomes the only answer they see. Pray for our
society, that through the lens of our broken hearts we may come to
observe and confront the painful systemic injustices–and pray for the
strength, courage, and wisdom to change them. Pray for the people of
Newtown and Chenpeng.
Then, if you really want to experience Christmas, look for the nearest mess… and
grab a broom.
A reflection by Kris Marshall