I've been a little removed since news of the Newtown, CT tragedy spread. I've been avoiding reports as much as I can because I cannot handle the intensity of the tragedy. I've been trying to numb myself before the actual shock settles in. I am the parent of a 1st grader, and so I'm afraid to allow my thoughts to go where they inevitably will. I know it's horrible for me to say, especially as a minister. I feel so much for those hurting families...so much that it feels like it would be a terribly selfish thing to wallow in the misery that is not mine to bear in reality, but just to carry in prayer.
Ironically (or not), the watchword for this week in Advent is "joy", and we light the special pink candle to remember the joy that Christ brings. In the present we feel so far away from that. But perhaps it's the perfect light to hold onto. We cannot fully live joyfully now as we grieve and worry. We cannot carry the light when we feel engulfed by the darkness. So much of life is out of our control. And yet, the candle still burns as a reminder that there is still joy, and one day it will be fully realized. We look at the light (though it is far off in the distance) and remember that a "light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."
Advent reminds us to wait for hope, peace, joy, and love. Although they are not realities now, they are promised in the Kingdom of God. As we wait, we watch and pray, we mourn, we dream, and we work to share the vision of this kingdom with others.
As hard as it's been, I recognize the importance of holding on to hope instead of letting the darkness win. There's something defiant and strong about hanging on to the light and remembering that love wins, even in the midst of evil and doubt. It's a struggle, though, to be present (and not hide), and yet not be consumed. In reading Kimberlee Conway Ireton's blog today I found an image I could hold onto. She talks about Mary, and particularly her prominence and importance in the Catholic faith. She is not simply the poor mother of Jesus, but literally the God-bearer (theotokos). By saying "yes" to the angel's message, Mary invited Jesus into her body so that the work of redemption and restoration might begin in her. Mary's journey was not one of ease or apparent joy. She had to bear the pains of childbirth that continued throughout her son's life, from the beginning of his ministry as he cut family ties until she finally bore witness to his humiliation and suffering unto death on the cross. And yet she bore that pain, through grief and tears, never surrendering her hope that the Word spoken to her would be the light to heal the world.
And so we wait, carrying what we have of God within us, straining for our lights to be seen in the darkness, trusting through our pain that the Messiah will be born again.