I am aware that for many people this is a difficult time. It might be a 'first' time for many. The first time without a beloved relative, the first time having to work, the first time I haven't made it home. For others this is just a time when loneliness is heightened. The horrible events in an elementary school in the US has probably stopped most of us and made us think. Why this, why now? The following is a reflection posted by the Jesuit community at Creighton University
The shocking murderous violence at an elementary school has shaken us all. Our very sense of security has been shaken. We ask questions about why this could happen, with a sense of outrage. We grieve and feel deep emotion, which touches all other sadness and emotion we are experiencing in our lives. We do not, and may not ever, know the details of what caused a person to shoot innocent people - especially little children and their teachers. However disturbed we may discover the person was, or whatever discussion may be begun about assault weapons in our midst, it is undeniable that we feel, individually and communally a sense of vulnerability - for ourselves and for our children.
For now, our experience of the second part of Advent, and our preparations for Christmas are deeply disturbed. We hear of people or towns taking down their Christmas decorations, out of guilt for celebrations at this time, or simply a sense of not knowing what is the right thing to do before such a terrible reality which has visited us. What should we do? How should we respond? What does our faith offer us at this troubling time?
At the heart of our Christian faith is the wonderful mystery of a Creator God who enters into a relationship with all of us who are created as unique and irreplaceable children, with infinite value. We must re-centre our vision on the absolute dignity of every human life -- from conception to natural death. That respect for life much confront a culture of death on so many levels. Every life must be regarded as precious and we must work hard, work together, work with renewed zeal to re-introduce respect, reverence and special care into our regard for every human person. We must let the Holy Spirit into our discussions and into our divisions.
We must pray for peace and healing in our own hearts and in our communities. The night before he died, Jesus prayed to his Father, "May they all be one." This must become our prayer and our mission. We must overcome our prejudices, or judgments, our bigotry. We must learn to deal with our hurts, our wounds, our anger in ways that respect one another and the absolute dignity of every person. We must learn to beat our "swords into ploughshares" and our "spears into pruning hooks." [Isaiah 2]
We must develop a culture which cares for those who are wounded and on the margins of our society. We must find ways to develop our compassion and our solidarity with those who suffer - for whatever reason. We do not and cannot live in isolation from those who experience great pain. When one part of the Body of Christ suffers, the whole body suffers. [1 Corinthians 12:26]
This is for us believers to rely on the promises of our God: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone." [Isaiah 9] It is a time to enter more deeply into the real meaning of preparations for Christmas. The good news is that we will find our salvation, in a messy place, in a barn, "lying in a manger." This is the time to go to that place of intersection with our God's coming and presence among us. He meets us where we are poor. He comes to us in our distress. We can experience the plight of the Holy Family as our story - a story which comforts us and helps us know again that we are not alone. This is our God, with us - with us where and when we need a loving, saving presence the most.
When we don't know what to do or where to go these days, we can go to the manger. We can imagine being there. We can imagine going there and experiencing the solidarity we will be given there. We can unburden our fears and troubled heart there. We can let the spirit of that first Christmas night bring us to a very special and renewing Christmas this year - not only on this year's Christmas night, but for as long as we need it this New Year.
From that place, our renewal can begin. Our conversations in our families, among our friends, can be about solidarity and greater love and care for the dignity of every human life. We can check and renew our own patterns of dealing with hurt and anger badly. We can practice reconciliation and healing. And, the grace that came that Holy Night will come again in our hearts and bring Joy to the World again.