A little bit of hell broke into the world in Connecticut on Friday. A piece of hell that shrouded the country and globe in some heavy darkness. I am pretty far removed from the event—I have never been involved in that sort of catastrophe; I do not know anyone directly connected to Sandy Hook; I have no children I’ve had to send back to school, or watch in their sleep knowing what evils lurk around every corner.
My life went on more or less as usual on Friday and the days to follow. I kept all of my plans and appointments. I carried a heaviness, though, a certain tightness. I took comfort in spending my Friday afternoon practicing life-saving techniques at the Red Cross, even though CPR and AEDs can only do so much, only go so far.
On Sunday, at a church where I am still to a large degree a stranger, I suddenly found myself volunteering/volunteered to help with the Christmas pageant rehearsal. So, instead of collects, lessons, and a homily, I shuffled a small herd of children around an echo-y undercroft. A number of the innocent, oblivious, stubborn beauties I directed were six or seven years old, and I marveled at their smallness and at how very alive they all were.
The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday, a day of rejoicing. The rose-colored Advent candle is lit; the priest may wear rose vestments. The readings focus on the joyousness in our anticipation of Christ’s coming.
This Gaudete Sunday, though, the joy was colored with pain. I could feel this heaviness in my own Sunday experience, and I could see it in others. It showed up on Twitter: Rick Morley (@agardenpath) tweeted, “Can one weep and still be preaching Good News? I hope so. I barely made it through my sermon this morning.” To which Laurie B. (@Drtysxyministry) responded, “Most of us did this morning. Saying Rejoice when your heart is breaking, that’s something of faith and hope.”
I am working with a group who recently had to consider the questions, “How do you know the resurrection of Jesus?…What is the Good News for you?…In what ways do you exhibit an Easter attitude?” As I responded, I considered the resurrection of Jesus as it is known in daily life, an Easter attitude lived in small things. All of us experience evil in our lives, there will be days when each of us know something of hell here on earth. I think an Easter attitude, a life lived in the Good News, is seeing all the evil, living through the valley of the shadow of death, and still getting up in the morning with some small spark of hope. Saying “Rejoice” when our hearts are breaking.
In his General Convention sermon calling for “Crazy Christians,” Bishop Michael Curry noted that we need Christians who are “crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something close to the dream that God dreams for it.” We’ve seen nightmares. What happened in Newtown was a nightmare. Are we crazy enough to hold onto hope that we can redeem the nightmares of this world and live into God’s kingdom here and now? This seems to me a most appropriate Advent message.
How do you exhibit an Easter attitude? How do you know the resurrected Jesus, understand the Good News? How has your Advent held a mix of heartache and hope?