Third Sunday of Advent: Grief and Grace

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

This isn’t really what I had planned for today, but in light of the events of the past week in Oregon, Connecticut, and China, it seemed appropriate. I’m sorry if it’s extremely disjointed: that’s how the past week has been. I tried to separate thought topics with horizontal rules, if that helps.

At first, I was going to write a list of the major mass shootings since Columbine and  muse about this type of violence.  (Columbine was the first shooting I remember hearing about.  I know, I just dated myself.)  But then I realized that isn’t where I wanted my focus to lie.

Yes, it’s important to talk about school shootings.  It’s important to talk about gun violence/control/rights in general.  It’s important to deal with what’s happened and how to prevent it from happening again.  It’s important to work through what we’ve experienced, seen, heard, felt.  But if that’s the final end of discourse, we’re left in a dark place.

I guess it all goes back to the fallen nature of man.  As I thought about what I wanted to say, all that came to mind were the lyrics of a song by Sufjan Stevens:

The neighbors they adored him
For his humor and his conversation
Look underneath the house there
Find the few living things
Rotting fast in their sleep of the dead
Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs
Oh my God
Are you one of them?…
And on his best behavior …
He’d kill ten thousand people
With a sleight of his hand
Running far, running fast to the dead…
And on my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid

We’re all tainted by the same Sin.  Even if it manifests itself differently in different people’s lives, even when it affects us in tragically different ways, we all need grace–to give, but most of all, to receive.  And that’s why we need Christmas.

From another perspective, one of the accounts that struck me most was that of Kaitlin Roig, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Incidentally, props on this interview goes to Diane Sawyer; she’s an incredible journalist and seems like she would be a great person to get to know in general.  Here’s the link; unfortunately, WordPress won’t let me embed iframe videos:

This is particularly remarkable to me because some of my peers here at college are probably about the same age as she is.  For that matter, she might only be three or four years older than I am, and I can’t imagine bearing that type of responsibility (don’t mind the fact that I can’t imagine being responsible for the minds of the next generation).

From Facebook (half of these are from teachers, which seemed fairly representative of the demographic of related posts):

“John 16:33 ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’  God help the families of Newtown Ct.”

“hugged my kindergartener a little longer at bedtime tonight and cried for the mommies who can’t do that tonight. 😦 my heart breaks!”

“Stuff like this goes on all the time. We just got a compressed version of the evil and pain and despair people experience all the time, and it came close to home. It wasn’t Palestinian kids or African kids or Latin American kids. And it’s going to bring a bit of a downer to our nice North American Christmas. So be it. The birth of the Messiah was never meant to be nice. It’s necessary. Necessary for hope of anything better or different than this status quo of ours. The alternative is that we continue to patch over the darkness with periods of nice, social progress only to have it come through the cracks like this.  [This is] absolutely NOT to diminish what happened in Newtown…My point was that this is only the tip of the iceberg, a glimpse into a darkness that’s more pervasive and constant than we realize because we’re often insulated from it by the veneer of order and stability we have in N. America and Western society. But it is a very thin veneer. Anyway, to any of you who connected to this posting, I want to make that real clear.”

“I am so grateful 3 boys came back through my door today, brimming with all the normal school day news. There are no guarantees and so I will give extra hugs today.”

“All I can think about is my little brother and how thankful I am that I have him alive and safe in my life. Prayers to all the babies and families apart [sic] of the horrific tradegy today. 😦 so upsetting”

“Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison, Rachel, Dawn, Anne Marie, Lauren, Mary, Vicky”

“This is my Father’s world / O let me ne’er forget / That though the wrong / seem oft so strong / God is the Ruler yet.” ~Maltbie Babcock, This Is My Father’s World

“Where there’s a shadow, there’s a light.” ~Petra, Road to Zion


Feel free to insult each other, forget your manners, create straw men, ignore empirical data, and commit as many other fallacies as you can, all from the cozy, anonymous protection of your keyboard.

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