While I was in my chaplaincy at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, a wonderful thing happened to me and to my family in that very building. Caitlyn was born to Debbie and me and in an instant the way that I looked at everything, absolutely everything changed. I no longer ate breakfast the same way because even the most banal things in my life were fundamentally transformed.
Most of all the way that I performed my job duties, the way that I ministered to people in the hospital changed and nowhere was that more clear than in my role as the on-call chaplain for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the next-door Children’s Hospital. Suddenly suffering was no longer something that was approached through abstract thinking or through flights of my imagination. Suddenly I was thrust into a situation where every weeping parent could have been me but for the grace of God and every child behind a lucite bubble could have been Caitlyn.
Many pundits and commentators will opine with perceived wisdom about the horrors of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut in the weeks to come and there will inevitably be a debate about the wisdom of unregulated gun ownership and many a breast will be beaten. For the parents across the country and indeed across the world, the horror will strike home when we imagine the loss of our own children, in the happy place where we send them every day, to the kindergarten literally the children’s garden and we fall to our knees and pray, thanking God again and again that this violence and horror have passed over our hearths and homes, as if we had marked the doorposts of our homes with the blood of the passover lamb and the Angel of Death let us off with a warning.
Too many tears have been shed this year and there seems to be no end to the trauma, as soon as we come to grips with one, another comes along and at some point we need to find a refuge, a rock in the stormy sea of events in this modern era.
As the Body of Christ we have that refuge and strength.
It doesn‘t make it go away, we’re not naive, but it gives us an immoveable safe harbor from which to speak out, from which to reach out, from which to look out and see how we can make things better.
The whole of Christendom is going to be celebrating this coming Christmas but for some the bells will be bring only sorrow and not joy, tears and not song.
Our challenge is how do we pray through this, how do we live through something like this not just for our own sake but for their sake as well because they are all our children, the ones who will present for us their Christmas wishes and lessons this morning and those who will be laid to rest in Connecticut this week; they are all our children because we are all one family in Christ, the savior who comes to us as a child, so terrifyingly fragile, with a face just like those who have been snatched away from us in a moment of madness.
They are all our children, we are all one family because we are all the inheritors of the kingdom of which Jesus has placed us in charge, for better or for worse; we have inherited this end of the creation right now and there are too many tears being shed here in our family, in the kingdom, in our kingdom.
So pray your way through this, in thanksgiving for being spared – this time. Then embrace the coming of the Christ, celebrate Advent and Christmas because the birth of Christ is still a cause for celebration for us, we are still His body, still His children, still looking for a better world, a better way.
Send your support to the families, to the community, to the teachers who all across the country are shuddering at the horror of this day. Hug a teacher, hug a child, show forth the coming Christ, speak up in love and in hope, stop dreaming about a world transformed by the love of God and start working for that world, start building it with Christ in your heart, maybe a Christmas carol on your lips.
Advent is the time when we look forward to the coming of the Kingdom of God, the coming of the promises of God. Let us also make it a time when we come together in the name of the child who is to be born to us and in the name of all of the children and the better world we’ll build for them.