I always appreciate being at church after a tragedy. Not that I ever want a tragedy to occur, but when they do, being in worship with my family of faith is a blessing. I remember my Dad preaching words of hope and comfort after 9/11, in those first few weeks when it still felt like maybe the world was ending. I remember how beautiful it was to sing and pray and read words of hope and of peace in that very troubling time.
On the one hand it was hard to be at worship today – my emotions over the Connecticut school shootings are still very close to the surface. On the other hand, I was so relieved and blessed to be there. For some it might have felt like it was ironic in a terrible, terrible way that today is the Advent Sunday of Joy.
But for me, it felt right. Not because I want to just smile and laugh and ignore the pain. But because I believe that joy is stronger than pain. That joy can be felt in the midst of pain. And that joy can help to heal our wounds.
So my smile was wobbly today in worship. My tissue was drenched by the end of the service, and my eyes and nose were red. But there were so many good things that happened in my community of faith today. We baptized a baby. We listened to our children sing and play the handbells. We laughed. We danced (does this mean our Presbyterian card will be revoked?!). We sang Go Tell It On The Mountain at the top of our voices and clapping broke out.
And God was with us. God was drawing us together. God was healing us. God was blessings us.
In the Gospel According to Matthew we find these words:
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Matthew 1:22-25 NLT
Jesus came so that we would know that God is with us. On the good days, on the bad days, on the ordinary days. Jesus came so that we would know God cares and so that we would know what it is to experience the joy of being unconditionally loved.
So that we would have a joy inside us that shines in the midst of darkness, that smiles through the haze of tears, that sings and claps, even when our hearts are broken.