Darkness: Living and Grieving
Advent is often compared to darkness. For many it signifies the four weeks leading up to Christmas. However, when it began as a significant event during the fourth and fifth centuries, Advent was a time of preparation for Epiphany, not Christmas. Advent in the beginning was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). In the beginning, the faithful would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for the celebration of God/s grace come to earth. Originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.
Advent was the dark time, that period in which people had nothing to hold onto, no real proof of what they believed. They did their fasts out of reverence and each week lit a candle to bring more light to the bleak darkness of nothingness. Advent represented in the early days the end times of the Church, a time in which faith mattered little. Faith is described as “the evidence of things unseen” and Advent celebrated that. Epiphany was the Festival of Lights with faith not seen and manifested. Grace was now real and living among us.
Today marks the fourth anniversary of 26 murders, most being children whose lives had barely started. Tonight I will participate in a service called Lessons and Carols, playing eight different instruments which, hopefully, will help herald the message of good news and belief in the future. Tonight others will participate in a memorial service for those who died that fateful day. I wonder what lessons we have learned from those deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary.
One lesson is that there were actually 27 murders. A troubled young man shot 20 children, 6 staff members, AND his mother. Then he committed suicide with a weapon. We forget the responsibility factor when we protest gun laws, when people claim gun ownership is a right, when we go about our daily lives today amid claims it was all a hoax.
“Certain unalienable rights” is the core phrase upon which the United States of America was founded. Those 28 that died this day four years ago had the right to live. Our responsibility to them and ourselves goes beyond what we might have in a closet or gun case. It includes providing mental health, protecting our children and yes, intelligent ownership.
Grace came to earth but it is up to us to give it life. We do this by living and grieving and then by beginning the process all over again, this time using knowledge gained from our past lessons. May light perpetual continue to shine upon those 28 who died. May those of us living continue to learn and strive to be responsible in living grace. I ask your prayers for the families as they remember the joy and grace of those for whom we grieve.