We Light the Candle of Peace

During the second week of Advent, we light the candle of peace. We read the prophet Isaiah’s vision of a peaceable kingdom where wolves and lambs, calves and lions live together on a mountain free from hurt and destruction.  
And we prepare to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  Ten years after that horrific event, during this year alone—2022—there have been 46 school shootings, and since the incident at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, there have been 284, meaning more than 300,000 schoolchildren in the United States have witnessed gun violence in their classrooms, cafeterias, and playgrounds.
Even still… it’s Advent again, when we light candles, as poet Rev. Sarah Lenzi writes, and “the world is ablaze with twinkling lights that insist on peace and hope and joy even in a time that is cold and bleak.” A newborn infant lying in a manger and Herod’s henchmen slaughtering innocent children. Candles and wailing.  Hope and lamentation.  Joy and refusal to be consoled. 
Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz Weber, in her manuscript “Modern Magi on the Mysteries of Christmas” has a Word to speak to us, as we approach the Sandy Hook anniversary right in the midst of Advent: She points out that, while putting the wise men and the shepherds in the same Christmas story is a mistake (they aren’t together in the bible), there’s a far more serious mistake we make when we leave Herod out of our Christmas stories altogether. She suggests that instead of the tiresome, “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas,” we should say “Let’s keep Herod in Christmas.” Because the world into which Jesus was born certainly did not resemble a Norman Rockwell painting. The world never has. “God did not enter the world of our nostalgic silent-night, snow-blanketed peace-on-earth sugar cookie suspended-reality of Christmas,” Bolz Weber writes. “God slipped into the vulnerability of skin and entered a world as violent and disturbing as our own.”
And into that world, God’s Spirit breathes, “Peace.”
When we remember the trauma inflicted by gun violence, the peace of Advent can be so hard to hold onto.  Yet with each of the lights we kindle, determination comes, determination that together we can end gun violence, we can find our way to that peaceable mountain and a little child shall lead us there.  So we light the candles. We never stop kindling the flame.