This is the phrase I keep hearing. “Things like that don’t happen in our town.”
Our community is still reeling from the recent news that the bodies of two little girls who were abducted this past July, were finally found in a woods in a neighboring county. Things like this don’t happen in our town.
As a nation we are finding enough oxygen to inhale the news of the mass killing of little children and teachers in Connecticut, and we hear over and over again, “things like this don’t happen in our town.”
Yesterday 10 little girls ages 10 and 11 were killed in Afghanistan carrying firewood. I have no doubt that community laments, “things like this should not happen in our town!”
We all want to live in communities that are safe and lovely and full of promise. What are we to do with when the facade of that image is broken and we are left facing the truth?
Truly we have witnessed unspeakable sadness and feelings of disillusionment in the past two weeks. But we also have witnessed tremendous acts of resolve and compassion to bring about justice to our broken world.
The fifth century African bishop Augustine once said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Oh, how we need such hope…and anger…and courage today! We have to have enough hope that we can change the world, enough anger in the way things are now, and enough courage to make a difference.
The hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel” speaks to the hope for a ransomed captive Israel. It tells of time when people were hopeless for the world they were living. It’s a beautiful and haunting tune, that leaves with a space in our heart that Jesus is meant to fill. The space that remains empty for many parents today, the space that will be filled only with tears and heartache and horror. Unless the world can help fill that space with something else.
We can fill that space. We can bring hope to the hopeless. We can be Christlike to others. We can fill the space of despair with the space of hope. How? You fill the space of despair when you look at a social problem like world hunger or gun violence or greed and you volunteer, or serve a meal, or give a donation, or become politically active and you say with resolve, no more. You fill the space of anger when you love people who cause you pain and you don’t return their hatred with hatred but rather you love them anyway.
To keep Advent is to keep from losing hope, for ourselves or for the sake of others, even when all seems hopeless. It is to plead with God even when God seems hidden. It is to do the right thing even without promise of reward. It is to have courage even in the face of overwhelming odds. It is to live fully even in the valley of the shadow of death. It is to watch without losing hope, even when we wonder where in this moment of hell, is God?
This morning, like millions of other parents, I made lunches for my kids, made sure they took their vitamins, packed hats and mittens to keep them warm, made sure they ate a good breakfast and had on clean socks and brushed teeth and I hugged them tight and told them I loved them.
This morning I am different. This morning I am angry. Angry that the truth is the world is not as safe as I want it to be. This morning I have courage. Courage to say I will send my kids to school and will not let fear be the dictator of my actions. And I have hope. I have hope that our community and all communities and can do better, and stand strong and say, “Enough!”