Friday, December 14, 2012

Sandy Hook, Children & Christmas

Away in a Manger

Tonight the church was filled with pre-school children and their families. They told the story of a baby born in a stable many years ago. They were thankfully oblivious to the day's events. Their moms and dads also seemed to be preoccupied with being justifiably proud and thrilled to see their children take the parts of Mary, the Angel Gabriel, and the many other angels, Joseph, the sheep, the shepherds and the three Kings. 

I was quite aware of events in Sandy Hook, and I could not help but think of the vulnerability of these children and all children. We're all vulnerable, no doubt. But these children, as they told the Christmas Story seemed so vulnerable to me.

I wanted to bless them and ask a prayer for protection on them tonight. But I had to let that be. They told the story and sang some carols. And the church was filled with Christmas joy and excitement as the  parents and grandparents of these children burst with pride.

My heart burst with prayer; a prayer of blessing for each child. And a prayer of protection for each child. 

It was not the right time for me to impose comfort on these children and their families.

Afterward, one mom came up to me and asked if I were "Fr Paul". 
"Yes", I said.
"My son came home and told me he met God at pre-school". She was bursting with laughter. 
How could I spoil a moment like this with my heartbreak?
I knew who she meant. He is an especially delightful child. I have corrected him each time he called me God.
"Now," she said; "he thinks you're Father Abraham." The children love the song I teach to help them shake their sillies out. 

But I am not God and I am certainly not Fr. Abraham. I wish I kew how to protect the children of Sandy Hook, CT and Douglassville, PA as we sometimes imagine God can protect us.

Alas even God cannot do that. Only we can protect our children. Perhaps we can have some conversation about that in the months to come and then take some robust action to protect them and the rest of us from these senseless acts of violence.

In the meantime, as I sat through the Christmas Story as told by these precious children, all I could do was ask a prayer of blessing and protection for these children and their families. Won't you join me!

Every week, at the end of story time, I ask each child to come forward for a blessing. They bound up toward me and smile broadly and often giggle.  I make the sign of the cross of their foreheads and say; "God bless you!"
Next time, I will say; "May God bless and protect you!"

As our hearts break tonight, as we remember the vulnerability of the Christ child in the manger, and the vulnerability of all children and their families, let the tears flow freely. 

And for tonight let the prayers arise to heaven. "God bless and protect the children".

Fr. Paul