Friday, December 14, 2012

Enough Advent Already: Prayers for Newtown


They say Advent is a season of waiting. They say Advent is a season of hoping. They say Advent is about expectation for Christ to come again and make all things new.

I say this. I believe this. I expect this.

Yet, how long, O Lord!?

Liturgical seasons serve to help the church and God's people live into and remember the sacred rhythm of our shared story of promise.

Still, as I continue to watch the newsfeeds and live streamings of the tragedy in Newtown, CT, which took the lives of 20 innocent children and 6 adults, I am not sure we need a liturgical calendar to remind us of our waiting, hoping, longing, and expecting for the world to be be be new. The stories of mass shootings in movie theaters and elementary schools, prank calls to hospitals that exploit helpful nurses, bombings in the Holy Land, bullying in public schools, and a whole host of other rhythmic tragedies seem to serve the same sort of purpose. This does not even include other personal stories and experiences of pain and suffering.

I have a whole host of thoughts running rampant through my mind, but the only one that seems pertinent today and every day, Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

On the cusp of this third week of Advent, which typically hinges on joy, we are reminded of the many who instead sit in sorrow and weep over victims of violence and injustice. We lift in prayer those who wait this advent not because of liturgy but due to tragic reality. We are reminded that Christ cannot come soon enough. So while we may hold a confidence and trust that God can and will make all things new and right with the second Advent, the time in between the two is often difficult to endure.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus! How long, O Lord!

I was reading this just before my wife texted me to turn on the news today:

"Let us not fail to see that the people of our times stand in anxiety and need before the closed wall of death, hardly aware in any way of the world that may be waiting behind it, and that in any case we do not do well to hurry on before them, building our speculative dreams, attending to our much business of evangelism or social service and asserting the immediacy of our religious experience. For the sake of the suffering of the millions, for the sake of the blood shed for many that cries against us all, for the sake of the fear of God, let us not be so sure! Such sureness is only a synonymn for smugness."

Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, 85

May the liturgy of Advent not turn into sacred smugness. Instead, may we grieve with those who grieve, mourn with those who mourn, and wait with those who wait.

May we also work towards whatever changes are necessary, both in legislation and personal transformation, to see that violence is lessened and children are no longer victimized.

Enough with guns! Enough with mediums and messages that promote aggression!

We can do better. We must do better.

Our children depend upon it. They can no longer wait.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

"As we mourn, we must sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what is right. This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws - and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait."

Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

A Few Resources:

Prayer of Confession by Marian Wright Edelman

PCUSA Resources in Response to Gun Violence

Let's About Talk Guns by Bruce Reyes-Chow

Questions of Faith in the Face of Fear Ministering with and for young people in the wake of tragedy (