IN COMPANY with many millions I deeply grieve the loss to this world of the beloved victims of the immense tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Words fail. Breath is gulped. Hearts beat faster. Tears flow. The scale of this loss is unbearable – and – since “home is where the heart is” it is very close to home, wherever in the world we’ve heard of the news.
And I think of a Christ-Child born into the very heart of worldwide tragedy of immense proportions two thousand years ago. To this day children are still threatened by broken minds and occupying forces, sometimes of national proportions, sometimes by armies, sometimes by single, tragic persons. To this day children are threatened by the dis-ease of greed. Children go without food, countless thousands without clean access to water, basic respect, security or shelter.
Emotion was full as we prayed Eucharist & Nativity Tableau (audio) here this morning. Representative youngsters prayed for “end to war and greed” and infants encouraged each and everyone to thank God for the gift-to-the-world of a baby – a baby who flagged up the possibilities for every baby – who would grow up to speak up for, and unto death forever defend, the rights of the weak, the outsider, the powerless, the undefended and the vulnerable.
So we’ll never want to forget Newtown’s “lights in the firmament” – the shining example of defending schoolteachers who could never have dreamed in a million years of the sickening and stupefying fear they’d have to overcome in order to rise to the challenge of defending the little ones in their care – for some of them, too, even unto death. Let us not forget the enormity, the indescribable immensity of that good.
And having watching the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year celebration, here in the UK, this evening I remind myself not to forget that worldwide outpouring of goodwill and the celebration of excellence, courage and the overcoming of great odds that was the London Olympics / Paralympics 2012. Martine Wright, one of 12 nominated, lost her legs in the bombing atrocity in London in July 2005 – and is now an honoured champion seated-Volleyball player. Marvellous and extraordinary women and men from all the competing nations were themselves Olympic lights.
In the depths of harrowing loss, as in the midst of life’s great celebrations, it seems that two “signs” are required – as “sacraments”, perhaps, of the inward and spiritual grace upon which we all so heavily rely – and they are light and peaceful embrace (witness the lighting in penitence, prayer, sorrow or thanksgiving of candles and lanterns, and the celebratory pyrotechnics of acclamation and joy; witness the hug’s being, in joy or pain or sorrow, more powerful by far than a thousand well-chosen words).
My prayer tonight, for all the world, will have been prayed, is prayed, and will be prayed by the Fount and Source of all of our lives. I pray for light and for peaceful embrace. And as I pray I turn again, for the umpteenth time, to gaze upon Briony Marshall’s exquisite sculpture – and pray that the Christian Church – hearing the call of the Christ to “follow” – will forever open the doors of her compassion to every child and woman and man upon the face of the earth, thereby re-membering and bringing delight to the countless millions now numbered amongst the lights in the firmament.
For the melting of boundaries – light and peaceful embrace. Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy.