My Twitter feed filled with words of shock, anger, disbelief. Grief started to creep in. Not again. Not children. Not this close to Christmas.
But yes, again. Yes, children and adults. Yes, this close to Christmas.
Yes, darkness is here.
Not that darkness ever goes away. Bad things happen. The most powerful ending of Job is its original ending, before we had to Disney-fy it up, where it does not come to its completion with Job getting a new set of wives and donkeys and sheep behind door number two. Job asks, "Why?" and God comes to Job, saying basically that life is bigger and more complex than Job will understand, that there are some things beyond us. Life is lived. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Grief and joy are part of this human experience. Apparently those are some of the rules. Job didn't like them, and I don't either.
But Job, at the end, realizes a profound truth: Life is hard.
As I stood in front of my congregation Sunday, after a celebration of a new bishop and many hugs and smiles and happy tears over the weekend, I wanted badly to be able to say words that took away their pain, that would give meaning to the tragedy in Sandy Hook and to the tragedies that befall us all.
I didn't. I couldn't. I could only speak from my own pain and, in some moments, through my own tears. I am still thankful every single day that I serve a congregation that is safe enough in which to cry, even if you're the rector. Not all churches have that gift.
I wish Resurrection meant that the place of no more pain and sorrow, where sighing and tears are no more, was here and now. Yet it is not.
What is here is anger, grief, shock, profound sadness, and all of the swirl of emotions that accompany those moments where the tragedy of life slams into us with the speed and destruction of a category 5 hurricane.
I pray we have the courage to feel our emotions instead of intellectualizing ourselves out of them or weaponizing our own grief. I pray we sit with others in their sadness and grief. The deaths of these children and adults almost certainly will trigger our own feelings of grief over the deaths and losses in our own lives. Please be present, not to fix or offer unhelpful advice, but simply to be. Be gentle to yourselves in your tender places. Cry and cry some more. Light a candle. Pray with words, if you can. If you can only cry, God is quite good at the meaning of those prayers, too.
I pray, I pray, and I pray some more as I weep for the priests, rabbis, and pastors who will bury those babies, those beloved children of God, no matter what their ages. And many will also proclaim the joy of the Incarnation in seven days. My heart breaks for their journey and courage and faith over the next days, weeks, and months.
But I am sustained by that faith. Faith, after all, is a choice. Life being hard is not. It simply is. I can wail and whine and cuss, but life will continue to be a splendidly difficult and beautiful journey. Faith reminds me that the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. Don't ask me how; that I don't know. Faith is that mysterious part of God that allows us to bleed for as long as we need to bleed, to weep until we have no more tears, and then to see the body and soul stumble toward healing. Don't ask me how to do that, either. We each have our own journey of healing, and God walks with each of us on our meandering ways to that place.
Faith reminds me, embraces me, in that truth that there is a place of healing - for each of us. And we have a choice to go there. Or to stay where we are in our pain. Faith assures me that Emmanuel, God With Us, is not simply a moniker, but a Truth.
Where we are, God is with us - each of us. Like Rachel, we may be weeping for our children and refusing to be comforted. Like Elizabeth, the hope we carry in our souls my leap for joy at the presence of God. Like Job, we may need to sit in ashes and feel overwhelmed.
O come, O come Emmanuel.
God with us. Always. Amen.