December 14 – (2) We Will Light the Pink Candle

The news of the school shooting in Connecticut stuns us. The tragedy, too familiar in its plot line, is unthinkable in the sorrow and pain it has brought into the lives of families, friends and an entire community. What would we say to a parent or a grandparent, a husband, wife, child, brother or sister whose loved one went to school this morning like every morning, but will never return home?

Already the partisans are manning their familiar positions and snipers are taking shots at those across the battle lines on the issues of gun control and Second Amendment rights. Is there some way to quiet them, to tell them to quit their harsh harangues so that we might find a way to end the insanity of gun violence and guns in the hands of the insane?

And for now, can we just be still long enough to mourn the slaughter of too many innocents?

Sunday is the Third Sunday in Advent and by tradition we will light the pink candle, the Joy Candle, in our Advent worship services.  This Third Sunday in Advent is called Gaudete in the high churches for the first word in the mass for the day, rejoice, in Latin, gaudete.

But I wonder. Should we light the pink candle, the Joy candle, this third Sunday in Advent, 2012? Given what has happened this Friday of the second week in Advent, might it be better to light one more purple candle, a sign of penitence and remorse? Or maybe no candle at all, for the darkness seems deeper than ever. There is little joy and rejoicing seems wrong.

The morning Psalm in today’s Daily Office is Psalm 31. I was taken by these words of David from the middle of the Psalm:

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! (Psalm 31:14-15)

Ours may not be the worst of times, but they certainly are not the best of times. They are not good times. It is as if the restraint against evil grows weak (2 Thessalonians 2). David, who knew dark days and the hand of the enemy and the persecutor, trusted in God and declared his confidence that his times were in God’s hand. Our times, these dark times when innocent children die, are in God’s hands.

We will light the pink candle on Sunday not because our times are good. They are not. We rejoice not callously, but in the hope and peace of our first two candles, those candles of purple penitence. Our joy, subdued this Sunday, is in our God who holds our dark times in his hands.

The Old Testament lesson appointed to be read on Sunday includes this line: “He will quiet you by his love” (Zephaniah 3:17). And so a softly spoken prayer for families in Connecticut, “may he quiet you by his love.”

Please come to worship on Sunday.