It is evening.
My wife is off to sing with the Symphony Chorus at the Christmas Festival, where carols and bells and music will swell and transform the world for a time.
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is on television, one of the Christmas Specials of my youth.
As I watch it I am struck deeply with its central message, that of misfits finding their place in the world.
The journey of Herbie the elf, Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius and an island full of “misfit” toys is one of finding affirmation that there is a place for you, and that you can be accepted, loved, and appreciated for who you are.
In the end it gives us a satisfactory “happily ever after,” all are recognized for the gifts they bring to the community. Even “the Bumble” has a purpose as he places the star at the top of Santa’s tall tree. We watch it and never tire of that message.
Today, a troubled young man undertook a quite a different journey, with quite an opposite ending. Nothing “happily ever after” took place in Newtown.
We can only speculate about what Mr. Lanza felt, what motivated him, why he chose the actions of violence.
We want answers, and most poignantly to the “why?” of the events.
We will not find them.
We will only discover what we already know, that this particular misfit did not find his place in this world.
We grieve the loss of life, the loss of innocence, and the cutting short of futures.
We lift our own prayers for the families of the victims, parents, and spouses and siblings.
We lift our prayers the responding law enforcement officers who will cry tears in private of remorse that all their training and their readiness could not arrive in time.
We pray for the doctors, the nurses, the funeral directors who will have to give loving attention to the dead, … all the dead, including the one who pulled the trigger.
We pray for school administrators and teachers everywhere who feel the violence done to their own classrooms and buildings, the “if it happened there….” feelings that cannot be ignored or shaken off.
We pray for the shooter, for whom God alone truly knows or understands or has a word to speak.
We pray for the family of the shooter who will try to grieve in confusion and angst.
We pray for the conversations that will come now. Conversations that will end up pitting constitutional interpretations, rights, responsibilities; controls and freedoms against each other as a violence saturated nation ponders its own moral compass.
We pray for all who will lift the refrain over and over again, “If only….”
This is how it is.
Until this moment I had not considered that what God did in Jesus was to become the ultimate misfit.
How strange it must have been for the limitless God of the universe to be encased in flesh.
How difficult for the omnipotent one who once created the heavens and the earth with “let there be…..” to find now that his words are questioned by both Pharisees and friends.
In Jesus, God becomes a misfit, and knows what it is to be one of us.
And maybe this Christmas that gives us a renewed appreciation of what we are called to do as followers of Jesus, and as Church.
As followers of the ultimate misfit, the word we have to proclaim is, “you belong here.”
At this table…
In this worship….
In our gatherings…
In our serving…
In our meetings and our deliberations…
In our actions and our words….
What we have to do better at claiming and proclaiming is this message:
“You belong here.”
For certainly there are other misfits out there looking for a place where they can be accepted, loved, understood, and given the dignity to hope that they too have something to offer to this world.
May the church be that place….that is my prayer for Christmas.