Reflecting on the The Peace Candle While Reminded of the Violence in Our World – Second Week of Advent 2012

Yesterday as i was waiting to pick up the boys from preschool, I was in the middle of a post about can the message of Christmas really change anything before the news alerts on my phone started breaking about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

As the painful news was coming to light, I got off my social media. Initially I felt guilty for not contributing my condolences publicly but I know myself, I know I’ll scan the updates of others, I know someone is going to say something I like, someone is going to say something I find trite, and someone is going to say something I find inappropriate. Mourning the tragedy was one thing, getting frustrated with friends (and them with me) was unneeded.

We’ll talk about gun control, we’ll talk about the prevalence of violence in our society’s media consumption, we’ll talk about mental health, family pain, and the innocence of children. We’ll talk about Columbine, the mall attack in Oregon, the Aurora theater attack, Sikh Temple in WI. We’ll talk about violence in the Middle East, US Military, NRA, and various other elements of politics. Someone will point out that on that very same moment that networks were covering the Newtown tragedy, news was streaming on the ticker telling us there was also a knife attack in an elementary school in China. Someone will remind us of the many other injustices like children being trafficked, starved, neglected and abused.  This is all needed.

Some of us will also wonder how does this happen in a world where many of us believe that God exists. Some of us will wonder how do we process this on the same week we lit the Peace Candle. Our saddened hearts and our untamed fears would have us convinced that God does not exist, that there is no divine peace, that we really are alone in this evil, sick and violent world. It’s necessary that we confront these thoughts. It’s also necessary to talk about accessibility of guns, safety in schools and all public places, we do need to confront the violence in our hearts and throughout our culture, we do need to talk about our vision of peace and God’s vision of peace.

It seems to me that even if we could ban and remove all guns, focus more on mental health, destroy all violent video games, withdraw all military forces, stop producing and airing all violent tv shows and movies that the number of these tragic events will likely decrease but the reality of evil will still exist.  Certainly there is no benefit in doing nothing so these issues are legitimately worth pursuing.  In fact, it’s part of our social responsibility to do our best to prevent, limit and try to stop such tragic attacks. But evil cannot be locked up, morality cannot be legislated, sadly it would only be a matter of time before something else happened. We would find ourselves in yet another similar moment, who knows the proximity of it this time.

We are horrified on at least two levels. One is the obvious shock of the current moment. And the other is that we fear that there is no end in sight. We often hear others and sometimes ourselves saying, “That could have been us …”

We all wonder where is God in the midst of all of this? And how are we to celebrate Christmas now? Well, certainly the superficial elements of Christmas are irrelevant and exposed as such. But during my prayers this morning I did wonder if the pain and evil of yesterday will help myself and others see a little deeper into the meaning of Jesus coming near. Days like these demand that we acknowledge our frailty and the arbitrary nature of tragedy. Today I see very clearly how the problems of others are also mine. Today I feel the need to search for solutions and answers. It feels very fluid and natural to ask God to comfort and be near those who are finding an unimaginable reality today. It’s actually in these moments the meaning of Christmas not only seems extremely relevant but very poignant.

The Christmas story is about God seeing the death and evil of this world and offering a better way. When Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are not only seeking a tragedy-free world, we are being taught to seek a world where there is no need for weapons, or a police force, or locks on our doors, or forensics or funeral homes. Jesus is God’s answer to a better humanity, one that is whole, one that is at peace, one that is redeemed.  It’s what Jesus offers – hope, meaning, redemption and life. Perhaps the meaning of the Advent Peace Candle is the reminder we all need right now.