Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Today, Las Vegas will no doubt be added to what has become an infamous line of mass shootings that have impacted the United States in the last 20 something years.
Columbine…Virginia Tech…Aurora…Sandy Hook…Pulse…Las Vegas.
These places have received new meaning in light of horrific events, forever attached to acts of hatred and senseless violence. They have instilled fear, they have left us on edge, and let us not deny they have festered into the predictable debacle between those who argue mental health is to blame and others who argue it’s due to our country’s increased access to guns. And don’t get me wrong, I have my own strong convictions about stricter gun control, but I don’t want us to reduce what has happened to such an ongoing conversation.
Last night, 50+ people enjoying a concert were mercilessly killed at the hands of a gunman.
When King Herod learned of Jesus’ birth, he “was frightened and all of Jerusalem with him” (Mt 2:1-4). The thought that someone could compete with his power and prestige. The notion that someone could rob him of his status. And yet, we read this story left with the unfortunate recognition of how little it takes to push someone to act in ways not of God. Our God is love. Not violence, not unholy thoughts, not hate.
We know how this familiar story of Herod played out. A massacre of children under two because of someone’s distorted desires. And then the passage contains a haunting echo of the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
Ramah, known as a site of barrenness, a site of grief. A site of loss. And the same may have been said for Bethlehem that unforgettable time where children suffered at the hands of one man’s wicked ways. And the same can be said as we watch and read the news this morning.
We ponder how such a horrific turn of events in our own gospel story could precede one of the most joy-filled moments in our salvation story, the advent of the Christ child who would take away the sins of this messy world. Yes, the Christ child ushers in hope, but we still seek direction as we sift through the fragments of our brokenness. While the advent of the Christ child in the midst of Bethlehem’s grief was not the solution to the families’ pain, it is the promise that we don’t make this journey in isolation.
This week, you will likely find yourself on social media seeing one argument after the other about what’s to blame for Las Vegas. But don’t let these fleeting and politicized arguments cloud your hearts and minds of the voices of the innocent crying out. The holiness of God’s creation is in need of redemption and it is our lamenting through which we advocate for the voices we have lost.
As in the midst of Bethlehem’s sorrow, Christ accompanies us in our current lament for a world that is flawed and perpetually hurting.
Lord, listen to your children praying. Send us love. Send us power. Send us grace.