Last Sunday morning, I had a wonderful group of children gather around me on the steps of the chancel at Princeton FUMC as we talked about a little owl that someone shared with us. I told them that no matter what, “God knows ‘WHO’ you are.” It was corny, campy and cute. Yet, I don’t regret a single fist bump or hug any one of those children gave me.
Last night I listened to the Princeton Senior High School Jazz Band, First Block Choir and The Madrigal Singers all perform beautiful music for the season. Their selections this year were interesting – even according to the director – who said many of the pieces were chosen simply because the showed a part of the “music of the world” that is so much a part of our culture. Some of the songs were not Christmas songs but simply recalled that anyone could praise God. I don’t regret clapping for a single one of the young people who gave of themselves. I don’t regret being in tears as I heard the words to the Lord’s Prayer in an African language and English at the same time. I don’t regret moving to the front of my seat and bursting with love and pride as my own daughter sang a duet of “O Holy Night.”
This morning I am doing my best to prepare myself for worship. There are lots of good things that have happened this week as I prepare for a different kind of Christmas this year. But this morning I read an Associated Press story on the shooting in Newtown and one quote brought me to tears again. One child, in the midst of the shooting said, “I just want Christmas. I want this to stop. I just want Christmas.” And now, I go to worship in song as we present our annual Christmas Cantata. It is difficult to do that in the midst of all that has happened in Newton, Connecticut this week.
I was reminded on Friday by Bishop William Boyd Grove of the following:
Connecticut and Bethlehem
Our cheeks are wet with tears,
and our hearts are angry.
In our minds, the image
of our own children last Sunday
with their smiling faces
and their blue and white robes
Singing the Jesus story.
Violence and death
are not new to Christmas.
There is a part of the story we usually skip because it spoils the mood.After angels had gone home
and the shepherds back to
their fields, Herod’s soldiers
killed every boy child
younger than two,
hoping one of them was the new king.
And within a few days
the Christmas Child was a refugee headed for Egypt.
Christmas was violent
and is today.
Bethlehem and Connecticut.
We pray that Christmas angels
Who sang on Christmas night
will hang out in Connecticut now;
much work to do there.
His words reminded me of the story I mentioned during last week’s sermon from Matthew:
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
And I was also reminded this week that in some places in our world children die by violence each and every day – the Sudan, Darfur, Palestine are just a few that come to mind.
This morning, our congregation will gather to worship. We will gather to proclaim boldly that even in the midst of the darkest that this world can bring, our Savior comes. Jesus arrives in the messiness of our world. Jesus arrives in the midst of the grieve of Newton and all those who look at their children differently – in our country and through out the world.
May Jesus come to us this Advent and Christmas…God knows we need him!