Christmas in Connecticut: A Pastoral Prayer on the Sunday After the Tragedy
Michael A. Milton, Ph.D., Chancellor/CEO,
Reformed Theological Seminary
Oh Lord God, whose Spirit moved across the face of the deep, over the chaotic void of the preexistent earth that we see today; O Christ Jesus, whose Word of divine authority flung the stars into their place, sent the planets into their orbit, and made the sun to be so perfectly aligned to this world that there are seasons — springtime and harvest, summer’s stilling sun and winter’s protective cover —that produce good, even out of our fallen condition; You are the God who brings order out of disorder. Oh God, this was true on the Lord’s Day on the Isle of Patmos, so many years ago, when St. John, your exiled servant, far from the comforts of his community, and perhaps, even taken from his Christ-mandated responsibility to Mary, the Mother of His Lord —surely, removed from the place of his vocation, and surrounded with void and emptiness and isolation and persecution which taunted his calling and assaulted his faith, so that he must have felt nothing like a saint much less a preacher — worshiped You because it was the Lord’s Day. We are perplexed as he and yet we too come to worship.
Father, you were not absent from the chaotic scene in Connecticut nor are you removed from the void that is in the hearts of dear parents, brothers, sisters, children, husbands, wives, grandparents, teachers, and the community of grief — that Patmos in Connecticut. In the mystery of Providence and of our living in the land of good and evil we do not presume to come before your throne on this Lord’s day to affirm the enigmatic and unsearchable ways of Your nature and Your rule, for you are a good God who does not willingly afflict the children of men and yet you are so great, or else You could not be God, that there is not a single sparrow that falls without Your sovereign awareness and even, enigmatically, Your unfathomable will. We come to You not to seek to attain unto ways that are higher than ours, but to grab hold of the cloak of Jesus who came from heaven to earth, to bring the sovereign God good to our lives and who demonstrated the unfathomable ways of the Almighty when mankind is saved by the death of God, through the hands of His own creation. We rest, then, at the Cross.
Oh Lord, this is a fallen world, and we are a fallen people living among those who are making their livings playing off of our sins. Our lives are filled with gaping holes through which every unimaginable evil is now worming its way to burrow in our minds and breed evil in our souls.
O Father, we come with soul-wrenching questions that defy human answers. And our questions compose our prayer. If you were not hesitant to receive the longing of David when he cried out “How long oh Lord?” or the piercing cry of your sinless son from the timeless cross, “My God, My God, why have You for shaken Me?” then we can rest in this Bible truth; that our laments and our wailing cannot distance us from You, but only draw us closer to You. For you too wept. You too wailed over the loss of life. You are God, oh Christ, and you are one of us. What love. What pity. What understanding You have for those who hurt, much more than we can ever express or experience. Our consolation for them, and for ourselves, is therefore in You, Oh Jesus Christ.
And so on this Lord’s Day we do not feel as though we are “in the Spirit” of Christmas. It is Christmas in Connecticut and the picturesque village is decorated, like so many of our homes, with festivities to announce Your birth. Yet the screams of children and the cries of empty arms mock the carols and the blur the colors of the street lamps covered with evergreen. No, Lord, it does not feel like “Christmas in Connecticut.”” It feels like Patmos in Connecticut. It is Patmos in the souls of many of us. We are hurting. We are longing for You. Where are we to turn but to You?
Come and move across the void and chaos of our souls. Come and speak to the grieving of those who have borne the mark of evil as the One who grieved over sin and death and whose sympathies reach into the core of our humanity in a way that no human words, not even the kindest human touch, can do for healing. Healing, healing, healing, deep healing in our void, chaotic pain will only come from You.
And so as John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and he saw things that were, that are, and that shall be, send Your Holy Spirit to us — first to the parents and the loved ones of those taken from us by this atrocity, this unalloyed display of pure evil, and into the numbed souls of the countless grieving in that community — then to each of us, and to all of us. For it is Christmas in Connecticut, and that may never sound the same again to us, Oh Lord. For Yuletide greetings and winter holidays are forever replaced with the stark reality of evil and pain and the need for a goodness that is out of this world. How very much like Bethlehem in the days when you were born, Oh Christ, when the slaughter of the Innocents—did we forget?—seemed to mar our Currier and Ives concept of Christmas. Now we know—again. We know why You came. We know why we cry out, “Come again Lord Jesus.” And we know why we long to be able to remember today, in our Patmos-like lives, “We were in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And Jesus appeared to us.”
With every deep, longing prayer of our hearts, as lowly creatures to an all holy Creator, come and save us. Come and mend us. Come and make us safe. In Jesus’ name. Amen.