On learning the news coming out of Connecticut yesterday, I called my sister, a former first grade teacher for thirty-one years.
All I did was say her name and the tears began.
“The news,” she said.
“The news,” I repeated back to her.
“We used to practice the intruder drills with our classes, and I’d always tell them that in all my years of teaching I’d never had it happen,” she said.
Sad how small children have to prepare for the horrific.
“As we sat in the dark, I’d tell the children we have to be really quite, and I’d read a story to them,” she said and then mused, “But if it was a real event, and they were scared, how would you keep a six year old from crying?”
I don’t even know how you’d keep a sixty year old from crying in such a terrifying situation.
But yesterday at a school in a small hamlet named Newtown in Connecticut, teachers had to do exactly that.
In a briefing, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy urged us to remember in prayer the families of the 20 small ones and the brave teachers and administrators who lost their lives.
We shall as we grieve over these precious lives cut short. Only day before yesterday, Newtown was known for famous residents which include James Purdy who helped slaves escape in the 1850’s, Joseph Engleberger, the father of robotics, and Bruce Jenner, 1976 Olympian, but from now on the village will be known internationally for the one who committed the second worst school tragedy in our nation’s history.
Last evening I read again this lament from a long ago prophet, “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (Jeremiah 8: 21-22)
An answer resounded not from those living a life of ease, but from now unknown slave-poets who labored under the shackles of oppression:
“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
Thereis a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.”
Two thousand years ago, God sent a medicine for our souls to be born in a common stable. In that tiny baby Jesus, hope came for all the world. The balm that Jesus brings is strong enough to heal even those carrying the worst wounds this life can deliver.
I know this first hand, because my husband, Jerry, lost an eight-year-old daughter to a tragic accident many years ago. When he began walking with Jesus two years after her death, he found the Savior to be all He claimed to be. He found Him the balm in Gilead. I am a witness to the healing in Jerry’s life.
Today, I watched an interview with a priest in Newtown who said the live nativity they’d planned would go on tonight even though one of the little girls who was to play an angel had been a victim in the shooting. He said someone would come into the church and tell the parishioners that a star had been spotted overhead, and they’d all go out and see the baby Jesus in the manger.
When I see the baby in the manger this year, I’m going to remember that he is the balm not only in Gilead, but also in Newtown, and your town, and my town.
I’m going to remember there is no wound too deep for him to heal, and no situation too dark for him to redeem.
Tomorrow, the third Sunday in advent, we will light the candle of joy in our church, and we’ll read Philippians 4:4-7. “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice.” We will still rejoice and give thanks even as we grieve in the midst of this tragedy as we remember the words an angel spoke to shepherds on a Judean hillside:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Prayers going up for all whose hearts are breaking tonight.
There is a balm in Gilead.