(I wrote the following article which appeared in the Indianapolis Star on Sunday, December 23, 2012, nine days after the shootings in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. At the time, I was providing occasional commentaries for the religion section of the paper.)
I recently awakened earlier than usual and went to my desk where I pray and write each morning. The sky was dark, so I could not see the woods behind my house or watch the squirrels and birds. I am used to light and activity in the woods to help center in God. I was not expecting darkness.
No one expects darkness. The children and teachers who gathered a week ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, did not expect darkness when they left their homes earlier in the day.
Mary's Words Relate to Newtown
When the angel came to Mary telling her she would become pregnant with God's son, Mary replied, "How can this be?"
As word of the mass killing spread in Newtown, across the nation and world, many hearts joined Mary's question, "How can this be?"
I read a comment in the Indianapolis Star shortly after the tragedy, some people in Newtown wanted to cancel Christmas, while others already had removed outside decorations.
Cancel Christmas? Cancel the time when Christians everywhere remember the birth of God's son, Jesus? Cancel the day marking the arrival of the person called 'the light of the world;' 'the bright morning star;' 'the one who in moments of deepest darkness can bring hope, love, companionship, courage, perseverance, comfort and light?' Cancel Christmas ... when we need all parts of Jesus more than ever?
God Is With Mary
Mary spent some time thinking about the angel's words. The angel reminded Mary, "God is with you."
The angel reminds us, we are not alone; God is with us even in darkness.
I continued writing at my desk in darkness, until first light appeared. I could see trees and hear birds. Another natural cycle of darkness and light was complete.
Resolving darkness for those who mourn in Newtown may be a life-long cycle taking different forms.
Celebrating Christmas - the birth of the one who brings light, love and light - can be a hopeful reminder no one ever walks through darkness alone.
May the message Jesus brings be celebrated in Newtown to the fullest glory next week and in all years to come.
Prayer: Lord in your mercy let your presence come to all who feel like the circumstances of their lives are filled with darkness, without light. We are reminded in John 1:5 - "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out." May these words be our hope and strength always, as we seek you, resting in the manger. Amen.