Zephaniah 3:14-20 Canticle 9 (Isaiah 12:2-6) Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:7-18
Although we light another Advent candle today, the pink candle of joy, the world seems darker once more. Not again, we say. Not again. The second worst mass shooting happened on Friday, in a little town in Connecticut. It could have been here. Newtown is small town America and murders, let alone mass murders, don’t happen there. But one did. We rank this slaughter, as if by quantifying tragedy we might understand it better…. We will not. There is no reason why little children would go to school and not come home; no reason why their bodies would litter the halls and classrooms.
But it happened. We are stunned, shocked, angry, hurt, and mournful. Weepy. We have tears, as our own President did. We hug our children, watch them laugh and play – thank you, Lord God for these children!
Today is gaudette Sunday, a day when the darkness of Advent is meant to be lightened a little; our pink candle gives us a glimmer of light in this dark time. The truth about this Sunday, the truth about Advent, is that the light has not yet come. We are waiting …
We can to remember a few things:
It is not our light that brings light to the world. These candles are not shining our light. They are symbols of the light that is to come. John the baptizer knows very clearly who he is; he is the forerunner, the baptizer-with-water, of the One who is to come. We are not worthy to have the status of a slave before the Light who is to come.
So we proclaim Gospel light. It is a light we cannot carry, but only point to. It is a light that will overcome all of the darkness in the world. This light will take away our fears, our sorrows, our earthly pain, our hatred of others.
We need to remember – to know deep within ourselves – that although we walk in darkness, we are not alone. Zephaniah declares to us that “the king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;” the Lord is with us now. An unlikely voice tells us where to find God within tragedy. Yes, one of those voices is John the Baptist. John reminds us of our insignificance – “you brood of vipers!” he cries. He tells us not to make claims upon our ancestors of our worthiness. Don’t tell me you are Abraham’s offspring, the sons and daughters of greatness. God doesn’t need that. God can make stones become Abraham’s children…. “Would that stones could replace the children that we have lost,” we say….Why, dear Lord, did you take our children?
John tells us how to bear fruit, how to find our Lord, how to repent and turn to the light. John’s message is different for each group of people who turn to him: tax collectors, soldiers, and those with more than enough each have a way to find the Lord. Each of us has our own path to our Savior. We are called to be exactly who we are, to amend our ways in the particular way that we need to, in a way that will not match anyone else’s path. John tells us to look for the light that is coming, to prepare, to amend our ways. John is giving us good news, announcing Good News. But it is not here yet. Not here, yet somehow present. God weeps with us.
A very unlikely voice might also help us find God in this time of darkness. Mr. Rogers. Fred Rogers, of the cardigan sweater and funny voice, said this:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
You see, we cannot deny tragedy. We cannot fix it. We cannot in one moment make it go away. But called as we are to proclaim the light of Christ, we can participate. We can point out those who are helping. We can dig deep and perhaps find Christ in the hands and feet of the children, teachers, emergency responders and so many others who were on hand on Friday. We can let the world know that we are united in prayer, and that we are united in pointing to the light of Christ.
Point to the light even while we are facing abject horror. Remember Christ. Remember the psalmists who show us that it is okay to rail at God, to be angry, to cry: “how long, oh Lord, how long?” Cry to the Lord. This is the same Lord who created the world, created US in His image, who gave offspring to Abraham and who gave Jesus to us. This is the same Lord who is with us today. God is with us in our confusion, our wondering, our chaos, our grief.
We are called to continue to walk in the darkness, not that we might stay in it, but that we might move ever so purposefully, ever so slowly, toward the Light.
Come, Lord, Jesus!