Sunday, December 16, 2012

For the Children

Since Friday, I have been trying to process the horrifying news out of Connecticut.  I wanted to acknowledge it on this blog somehow, but I haven't been able to find the words.  How do you speak about the unspeakable?  There has hardly passed a moment where the victims and families of the shooting have not been on my mind, yet even my most sincere thoughts seemed trite in comparison to the tragedy looming out of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It's an event that will take forever to come to terms with, maybe longer, if I ever do.  I'm not sure I want to because I imagine when I reach the point where I can understand the murder of 20 young children and their educators, I will have lost something vital and humane within myself, and I do not want to meet, much less be, that person.

This morning when I woke up after a fitful night's sleep.  I logged onto Blogger thinking I would attempt to catalog my thoughts into a cohesive blog post, but instead, I posted a review of Ellen Hopkin's Collateral.  I still didn't know what to say.  I still don't although I would like to tell this story.  It's not really my story.  It's the story of my pastor and my church to which I was merely a witness this morning.

Tonight we will present our Christmas cantata at church.  I sing in the choir, and we have been practicing since August on a beautiful Renaissance work.  It is a difficult piece for many reasons, but I think we've finally got it.  My church is very small and has few children, but we usually bring in congregation members and their children, grandchildren, and friend's children to create a manger scene.  The children process in during different parts of the cantata until the entire cast is assembled representing the scene from Bethlehem as described by Luke.  This morning we forwent our traditional Sunday School lesson to practice for the cantata.  We have assembled quite a rowdy bunch this year, so there was a lot of running, jumping, and question asking.  Our dove was attempting to fly.  In short, it was a cute and hilarious distraction to the singers and our director.  After our chaotic morning rehearsal, parents collected their children, still riled up from their mock performance, and we rushed back to the choir room to prepare for the morning worship service.  Our pastor holds a few minutes of children's church mid-way through each service before the sermon.  Today he had planned a message around Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - complete with a bulbous, shiny red nose of his own - but the children were too distracted to hear it.  They wiggled and squirmed and interjected with their own messages.  One little girl almost knocked the Advent wreath, where three pillar candles were burning, off its stand!  The congregation watched with merry amusement as our pastor attempted to corral the young ones before finally scooping one up under his arm, uttering a quick prayer, and sending them bounding next door to the nursery.  He returned to the pulpit amid the congregation's laughter, picked up his Bible, and said, "In all serious and solemnity, wouldn't you rather be here with these children running around and laughing, then in Connecticut right now?"

My perspective was transformed.  Instead of thinking of this morning as disorganized and looking forward to the cantata tonight with wary anticipation, I viewed our time together as a celebration of the most innocent and joyful kind of life - the kind that was abruptly stolen this Friday.

I do not mean to tell this story to undermine the pain and suffering of the families of the victims of the Connecticut shooting.  I tell it instead to honor the life and legacy of those children and their educators taken too soon from this world, and I pray today for mercy and healing for those left behind.

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