Pastoral Prayer on the Sunday after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut

A prayer delivered by Michael Cheuk, Pastor, University Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Va., during the Sanctuary Choir Christmas Program on December 16, 2012.

God of love and God of grace, mere words cannot express the emotions and sorrow that many of us feel this morning.  Our hearts and our minds go out toward the family members and friends of the victims of the shooting in Connecticut this past week.  I pray that your healing Holy Spirit will be with all who have been affected by this tragedy. 

     Be with disconsolate mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, fellow teachers and students. 

     Be with care-givers, counselors and ministers as they help the victim’s families. 

     Be with the family members and friends of the perpetrator. 

May your comfort surround them all. 

May your peace that transcends all understanding descend upon them all. 

God of love and God of grace, I also pray that you will be with us.  This tragedy has jolted and reminded us that we still live in a world that is broken.  A world where toddlers are attacked in a Chinese day care center, a world torn apart by violence and conflict, a world where fourteen children die every minute of poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses. 

In such a broken world, we echo the poetic words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

      And in despair I bowed my head, “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
      “For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”

“Where are you, God?” we ask. 

Why is hate so strong? 

Have you forgotten us in our poverty that spans more than just our finances? 

Have you forsaken us in our conflicted relationships? 

In our hunger for love and acceptance? 

In our illnesses?

But then this morning, we are reminded of the real meaning of Christmas, when you gave your answer to our questions, not in human words, but with the giving of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, who is called Emmanuel – “God with us.” 

Where are you, God? 

You are with us in our grief, in our sorrow, in our doubts, and in our brokenness, our illnesses and our poverty.  You know what it is like to see one’s beloved child feel forsaken and killed.  But we also see the power of your love that raised your Son Jesus Christ from the dead. 

And so this morning, even in the midst of our grief, we dare to sing the songs of the season.

Because, in faith, we witness to the fact that your love is stronger than hate, 

     that your joy is greater than our despair,

     that your peace will bring us wholeness, 

     that your hope will carry us into the light. 

We lift our voices as your children on behalf of those children whose voices were silenced.  Receive the offering of our worship, even as we prepare to receive the gift of the Christ child, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

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