Tomorrow, churches across America will be faced with an all-too-real tension.
How can we live in joy in the midst of tragedy?
The third week of Advent is traditionally the week in which the church focuses on the theme of joy. It is our response to the fact that Christ, the Son of God, came into the world at Christmas. As followers of Christ, we are called to live with joy because of what Christ has done in this world and in our own lives. Truly, it is a way of living that is both an inward and outward response. It is inward in that joy removes the bitterness that can be produced by living in the world. It is an outward response, because our joy in Christ calls us to share that joy with others in how we interact with them.
Recognizing joy right now can be difficult. As we watch the reports of the senseless and unthinkable tragedy in Newtown, Conn., we are struck by the tension of joy and grief. The two do not go together. What are we to do? Can we recognize joy in the middle of deep tragedy and pain? Is there a place for joy in our hurt?
I think we can and I think there is. We can recognize the joy of Christ by being people of joy, even in the midst of tragedy. What do I mean by this? Being joy is a way of life that helps us to focus in times of grief and senselessness. It is a living response, yes, to our faith in Christ, but it is a deeply personal way of responding to what took place yesterday. This can take on several different forms.
We can be joy by praying for those impacted by yesterday’s tragedy. Prayer is our way of giving God our hurt and pain. It is also our way of being with those who hurt in a spiritual way. By prayer, we recognize our joy that God will hear our prayer and will be with those who are hurting today. I posted several prayers, yesterday, from The Book of Worship and The Book of Common Prayer that can help us pray in this times.
We can be joy by reminding ourselves that Christ is present in our grief.In the midst of our pain, we can rejoice that we are not alone. Christ was there in our tears and continues to be with us in our pain. The presence of Christ in our lives is always with us and that is certainly something to rejoice in. Christ was in Newtown. He was there with the teacher who shielded her students. Christ was with the police officers who made quick work in getting to the school to prevent any additional loss of life. Christ was there with the pastors, grief counselors, and friends who went to the community and offered themselves to the families and community. Christ was there in our anger and frustration as we watched the news reports. That is something to be joyful about in our grief.
We can be joy by limiting our rhetoric. Moments after the shooting was first reported social media users were logging on to blame someone for what took place. Too many used the shooting’s aftermath to advocate either pro-gun or gun control agendas. This is not the time. Now is the time to mourn and comfort those who are hurting. It is not the time to say why more guns are needed or how we need to limit the access to guns. In times of grief, political rhetoric can be too emotionally charged to allow for a rational discussion of the issues. We can wait to have the discussion on guns in our country, but it is a discussion that we need to have. For now, let us be people of joy who are not attempting to use this time to advocate positions, but instead are advocating community and togetherness.
Finally, we can be joy by simply caring for each other. This is needed right now. We all need each other when we are grieving. We can be people of joy who allow others to express their hurts and pain to us. We can be people of joy who tell others that it is going to be OK … in time. We can be people of joy by our presence.
There are opportunities for joy all around us. My hope is that we can be people of joy even in these difficult moments.
May God be with us all.