LISTEN TO: Maria Muldaur, cover of Bob Dylan's "Lord, Protect My Child"
This Monday, December 14, we will remember one of the darkest days of modern US history: the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre. 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children between six and seven years old, and six adult staff members in Newtown, CT. Today, instead of celebrating 20 beautiful teenagers beginning to discover themselves and build their future, we mourn the loss of innocents. For many people, it was an incident, like 9-11, whose impact on our psyche shall never be forgotten. An evil that can never be erased. A irremovable stain on the soul of our nation.
We are reminded that mass murder has always been a part of the Christmas story, a part that is painful for us to look at. A part we would prefer to ignore. The Gospel of Matthew reminds us that King Herod was leaving no stone unturned in his desire to kill Jesus, and rid himself of a supposed rival. He didn't think twice of killing those baby boys.
This is what Evil does. It wants to destroy our hope. Our future. Our innocence. Our ties love and relationships. It wants to plant seeds of despair; seeds of bitterness. It wants to train our hearts to see other people as "objects." The same evil that drove Herod to kill has prompted countless others down the ages to kill, abuse and destroy human community.
God knew this. And God knew we were powerless to stop the Evil One, powerless even on our own to change our hearts. So God sent Innocence into the world. God sent us a Future, a Hope; someone to connect to -- in Jesus. In Jesus, God forever binds Godself to every grieving parent and every parent made a refugee. and every hope held by a loving adult for the children in their midst. In Jesus, God reaffirms a priority to care for children. In an age when children were loved but treated strictly, taught to work hard, taught not to speak unless spoken to, Jesus told his disciples, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children."Matt. 19:14. The Bible frequently calls us to care for orphans, Psalm 68:5 even calling God "Father of the Fatherless." God is the Father who embraces the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32).
May the tragic events of this Advent season remind us that "Sandy Hook" is carried out every day, somewhere in our world. May it make us loving advocates and protectors for the "least of these," in the name of the One who emptied himself and made himself the Least of the Least, so we might have life in his name.
PRAY: We pray for children who sneak popsicles before supper, who erase holes in math workbooks, who can never find their shoes. And we pray, for those who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire, who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers, who never "counted potatoes," who are born in places where we wouldn't be caught dead, who never go to the circus, who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions, Who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish, Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money, Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink, Who slurp their soup.
And we pray for those who never get dessert, who have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents watch them die, who can't find any bread to steal,who don't have any rooms to clean up, whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser, whose monsters are real.
We pray for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday, who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food, who like ghost stories, who shove dirty clothes under the bed, and never rinse out the tub, who get visits from the tooth fairy, who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool, who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those whose nightmares come in the daytime, who will eat anything, who have never seen a dentist,who aren't spoiled by anybody, who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep, who live and move, but have no being. We pray for children who want to be carried and for those who must, for those we never give up on and for those who don't get a second chance. For those we smother…and for those who will grab the hand of anybody
kind enough to offer it.
We pray for children. Amen