As news began emerging of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, December 14, our hearts were filled with grief, anger, questions, and pain. All the while, our church was preparing to celebrate a special Sunday – the third Sunday of Advent when we would focus on joy and light the candle of joy in the Advent wreath.
On that Sunday, our children led our worship by presenting a Christmas Pageant. Watching them in biblical-era costumes, we remembered once more that Jesus, the longed-for Messiah, was born in the most unexpected of circumstances. Even as we talked of joy, we also remembered the pain and loss brought by Friday’s tragedy, and we added a Candle of Remembrance beside our Advent wreath.
I share now a prayer inspired by Timothy Merrill, a Presbyterian minister. Even as we move through Advent toward Christmas, we continue to pray for adults and children of Newtown, Connecticut.
A Prayer for Comfort
Gentle, Compassionate, Loving God, hear the cries of your joyless, sorrowful people. Our prayers go out to the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School who have experienced incomprehensible loss.
We come to you with heavy hearts and in deep sorrow. There is little joy on this Advent Sunday of joy. This was a slaughter of innocents, twenty kindergarten children killed. The parents now are burdened with unfathomable grief. Their pain and numbness must be beyond words and thoughts.
Our hearts are heavy, and we cry out asking why. As we celebrate a child born in Bethlehem, the lives of children scarcely out of the cradle are snuffed out and gone forever except in our hearts.
With the prophet of old we cry out, “Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. Is there no balm in Gilead? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”
We do not understand. We cannot light only a candle of joy. We also light a candle of remembrance, a candle of grief and sorrow. And we remember that You weep with us.
In the weeping and mourning, may we – and especially those most affected by this tragedy – feel your eternal presence and know your comforting Spirit.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.