Our gracious Father,
As we look forward to this season with all its songs, and Scriptures, and traditions–
As most of us look forward to time with our families over the next three weeks–
As many of us look forward to the children’s Christmas program tonight–
Our hearts are broken to think of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We think of the words of Job: “Oh that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea” (Job 6:2-3a).
And the words of Jeremiah: “My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city” (Lam. 3:11).
And the words quoted by Matthew when he recounted another Massacre of the Innocents: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt. 2:18).
In the face of such grief and evil we do not know what to do or how to help. But we can pray.
We pray in confidence that you are with us and in faith that you hear us. As it says in Exodus: “The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning and remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel-and God knew” (Exod. 2:23-25).
We pray for the family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers of the Sandy Hook victims: Dawn Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Nancy Lanza, and Rachel Davino. And the children: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison N. Wyatt.
Give comfort to their families. Bring healing and hope to the school and the community. Bear their griefs, Lord Jesus, and carry their sorrows. Show yourself, dear God, as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3).
Bless the teachers who will return to work next week, in Newtown and all across this country.
Bless the students who may be filled with confusion, anger, and fear.
Bless the pastors who must counsel, comfort, and preach to their people the words of life.
Bless your people with hearts of compassion and acts of service, that they might show your love to all who are hurting.
Make us winsome in our witness for Christ, especially those who will be called upon in the days ahead to give a reason for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15).
With so many in our nation thinking now of weighty things, give us ears to hear what is true and what leads to eternal life. May this evil be a reminder of our own depravity. May these deaths remind us of our own mortality. And may the loss of life remind us of Him who conquered the grave.
Let us look upon Jesus, our Suffering Servant and sympathetic High Priest.
Turn the hearts of the sorrowful to the Man of all Sorrows (Isa. 53:3). Turn the eyes of the weeping to the Savior who wept for his friend (John 11:35). Turn the cries of all those asking “Why?” to the cry of him who said on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
We praise you Father that you sent your Son to share in our flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Heb. 2:14). Because of you, Christ Jesus, we do not mourn as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13).
We believe you are the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).
We believe you mean for good what a 20-year old murderer meant for evil (Gen. 50:20).
We believe you will one day judge the living and the dead (John 5:27-29).
We believe you will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).
Even now in this season as we celebrate your first Advent, we so eagerly await your second. Come thou long-expected Jesus, come quickly. Amen.