My dear friends:
As with all public tragedies, we find ourselves lingering over the shocking events for a short while and then, inevitably, we turn and move on with our lives. It is an entirely human response. We have a limited capacity to gaze too long into the darkness of senseless violence and death.
Over these past few days, I have found myself unable to look squarely at the events that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. I was utterly horrified at the news, partly because as a parent I simply could not imagine standing in the shoes of those whose children were killed, and partly because, as a human being I found myself unable to grasp such a random act of violence against defenseless children.
I have spoken to many families over the past few days. I have discovered not only great sadness, but also fear and feelings of vulnerability. “How did this happen?” “What can we do to prevent it from happening again?” These are legitimate questions (and legitimate efforts) that seek to ease our fears by trying to control outcomes. What we discover is that there are no easy answers. We come to the unsettling realization that our everyday personal safety lies in a place of profound dependency. What I mean is that we live our everyday lives utterly dependent on other people not to harm us. Although we exercise free will, we assume that there are natural boundaries to human behavior that serve to protect us from each other. The Newtown events lay those assumptions bare.
And yet it is also in dependence on each other that we find blessing. We look to each other for love and consolation. We are dependent on each other for our very identities. It is only through others that we find a sense of belonging. Let us not forget that our mutual dependency is a gift, even though it is too often corrupted by human brokenness.
So when all attempts at human control fail – and in the midst of our vulnerability- we are all of us dependent only on God for our ultimate life and blessing. Let us remember that on Christmas morning God comes to us, not in power and great might, but as an utterly helpless infant, dependent on us for his care. In Jesus, God put himself in our hands, so that we could learn to put ourselves in his, even when we are faced with events that scare us and that we cannot understand.
I prayed for the Newtown victims this past Sunday in church. I share it with you again:
Heavenly Father, we pray this day for the victims of the Connecticut shootings. We lift their families up to you in the midst of their unspeakable pain. Comfort them in their sorrow. In time, ease their grief, for we know that there is no darkness so deep, no despair so profound that your light cannot break through. We ask, that for those families, Christmas will not always be a reminder of their devastation and loss, but eventually an occasion for them to see instead the light and peace of your coming among us and of the promise of resurrection to life eternal through your holy cross, by which all your children will one day be re-united. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.