Joyful images to “like” on Facebook: six year old grandson grinning the gap in his smile from his newly yanked front tooth; one year old twins in candy-cane striped pjs caught in the act of “emptying” the dishwasher and trying to escape Mom’s “wrath.”
Candlelight images pleading for us all to pray for the families of the little children and the teachers gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School for no discernable reason.
Joyful image of toddler grandson playing “peek-a-boo” in a closet.
News report of first grade teacher hiding her students in a closet, cradling their faces in her hands and calming them by saying, “Let me see your smile.”
Our perfect Christmas tree, decked out in glory, glows warmly in the background.
A firehouse, set up to sell Christmas trees but now a staging area for national media, beams Christmas red and green in the background.
Boxes of Christmas gifts pile up at my house from all the online ordering I have done.
The guidance counselor at my school notes, “Those children have Christmas presents that they won’t be opening.”
Peace on earth. Goodwill to men. As if the tragedy weren’t enough, it comes now–during the season of comfort and joy. Where’s the comfort? Where’s the joy? How can one even enjoy what one has when the pain of others is so, so hard?
My Bible reading this morning took me to seemingly random places that turned out to be not so random at all.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s from Philippians 1:2. It’s the standard opening line for the New Testament letters. Oh. It’s God’s standard opening line. Grace and peace. From God.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more… (Philippians 1:9). In an online essay (“Americans, united in horror for a moment”), AP reporter Ted Anthony quotes dear old Mister Rogers speaking on coping with tragedy:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, `Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,'” he once said. “To this day, especially in times of `disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Thank you, Mister Rogers, for still keeping our eyes focused on the good in the midst of evil. May love abound more and more–as we act on the grace and peace.
The people all tried to touch (Jesus), because power was coming from him and healing them all. … Looking at his disciples he said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6: 19, 21) There’s that discord, tackled head on. That line about “blessed are those who weep” can sound really hollow when in the midst of the weeping. It’s like people trying to comfort the bereaved by saying, “He’s in a better place.” It really doesn’t take the hurt away. Ah…but what if the one saying it had such power that people were trying to touch him to be healed by it?
This is about when Karen Carpenter popped into my head–just a fragment of tune and lyrics. I had to scroll through my mental Rolodex to place the song.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead,
nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on
earth, good will to men.”
It is still the season of comfort and joy. It’s just that today we are conscious of how much we need it. And, like the Who’s in Whoville, we know that it won’t come from packages, decorations or roast beast.
God rest you merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay;
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray;
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.