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December 20, 2012
This past Sunday, December 16, 2012, in the sanctuary of our Bethesda United Methodist Church,  we all watched our children in the familiar pageant of Jesus birth, and then relived it with John Whitman’s beautiful photographs.  Yet also present in our consciousness was the horror of events this past week in Newtown, Connecticut.  Bishop Spong, in his weekly essay on the web, talked of the Christmas pageant at his own church.  The following excerpt of his essay resonated with me, and  it  explains why I must still wish “ Merry Christmas” not only to those I love but to everyone.
Loren Bullock
Dec 20, 2012
Bishop John Shelby Spong  (Dec 19, 2012):
     “On Sunday I was in my parish church, St. Peter’s in Morristown, New Jersey for worship. It was pageant Sunday and the church was filled with children costumed as angels, shepherds, wise men and even as lambs, donkeys, cows and camels walking on four legs. King Herod, who was about seven with his crown in place, directed our attention to Bethlehem. Then we heard the familiar story of the presence of God being experienced in the life of a helpless baby, a dependent child. We listened to the narrative in which the “Holy” was found in the vulnerability of an infant, who was subjected to the dangers of human existence. Our gifted rector, Janet Broderick, spoke to the children about their fears, the pain that life inflicts. She did not hand out panaceas or cheap grace. She did not seek to dull the pain we were feeling with rosy pictures of heavenly bliss now being enjoyed by the victims, nor did she delude us with the idea that twenty-six new stars are now shining in the sky. Instead she let us feel the trauma of the Newtown shooting, the human situation where no one is ever completely safe and the fact that we must embrace and live with these exigencies of human existence. Her message was not “God will take care of you,” for clearly God did not take care of these Connecticut children, but rather that God is with you, God is in you, so have courage, live life fully each day, love wastefully, [strive] to [be] all that each of us can be and make every moment count as if it is part of eternity.
    “I looked at the faces of those children in my church last Sunday. They had embraced the horror of the Newtown shooting. Yet, they set it aside momentarily to bask in the glow of knowing that they were performing and were appreciated and loved by their audience. Every parent, however, held his or her child a bit more tightly, a little longer than usual, and much more poignantly. I looked around at the faces of those in that congregation that I know so well. I saw a number of people who had recently lost their spouses. They were both elderly and young. They were black and white. Their losses were six months ago, three months ago, three weeks ago. I looked at the faces of parents with whom I have walked when they lost their children to sickness, to accidents, or to the violence of the natural world.
    “In that congregation on Sunday we prayed not for the security that life will never possess, but for an enlarged capacity to live, a greater ability to love. We prayed not for the absence of pain and hurt, but to be enabled to share in a peace that transcends pain and hurt, the peace that passes understanding. It is not peace ‘as the world gives.’ ”

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