Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, have left us all stunned and sorrowful. You can read my initial response from Friday by clicking this link. Later, I provided a theological reflection about this violence and the love of God in the sermon "Where Was God in That?" and you can read it by clicking this link.
Many have wondered how to celebrate Christmas when so many of our fellow citizens find themselves stricken with grief. The dissonance between our usual seasonal gladness and the horror of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School suggests to some that we should forgo joy and celebration this year out of respect for and solidarity with those who mourn.
This is an understandable but misguided impulse. In all things--especially in the face of sorrow, pain, and death--followers of Jesus help each other remember, and announce to the doubting world, that God's love conquers death and his light dissolves all darkness.
Our celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ reminds us that God enters even our darkest, most harrowing places. When we find ourselves in such a place--and Newtown brings us all to such a place--there is no more fitting time to remember Emmanuel. God with us.
We do not dishonor those who have died or turn an indifferent heart to those who grieve when we experience with joy the birth of the Son of God. Instead, we realize with greater depth and clarity why this birth was necessary for us and what an unspeakably wonderful gift we have received.
Nothing we say or do can make whole again what was shattered last Friday in Newtown. Lives and hearts and souls lie in pieces on the ground. And yet, what is beyond our capacity to repair God himself has begun to restore through the birth of Jesus. He makes himself vulnerable to our deepest sorrows and our most agonizing pain in order to bring us joy and healing that we cannot produce for ourselves.
And so I bid you to celebrate this Christmas with joy, because we are celebrating the healing power of the manger. Heaven has bent low to touch the earth. To turn death into eternal life. To exchange crushing sorrow for tender, undying jubilation. To redeem even and especially the tragedy of Newtown.
Joy and the whole Owensby family join me in wishing you every Christmas blessing. May the joy and peace of Jesus Christ be yours this day and forever more.
In Christ's Love,
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D.
The Diocese of Western Louisiana
P. O. Box 2031, Alexandria, LA 71309