Unsettling Advent 2022, Day 17 - Word&Way

Unsettling Advent 2022, Day 17

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Days away from the close of 2022, 626 mass shootings have pop-pop-popped across America this year. That is 16 incidents more than in 2020 — lockdown year, George Floyd year, election year. But this year’s semi-automatic rage still trails the crucible that came in our nation’s most violent year: 690 incidents extinguished 705 souls in 2021.

This year, AR-15s, the mass murderers’ weapon of choice, sprayed rounds through classrooms, night clubs, convenience stores, supermarkets, chartered buses, and across street corners, killing 653 people so far. Most of these shootings never saw the front page of a national newspaper. Most never graced the lips of a cable news reporter. Most of the dead are simply dead — with ammunition fished out of their riddled bodies.

And here, in the darkness, we acknowledge their deaths.

Here, in the darkness, we say to each fallen soul: We see you.

The dark is clarifying. Isn’t it?

When we allow ourselves to sit in the darkness and recognize it as darkness then something almost magical happens — we feel.

Fear and rage and sorrow rise from incredulous souls, screaming: How can this be?! How could we witness the carnage of Sandy Hook and pass no laws to fight that? How could we witness the deaths of the Emanuel 9 and leave legislative pens laying dormant on congressional desks? How could we bear witness to the slaughter at Parkland High and allow Uvalde’s murderer to riddle 21 more?

Students gather on Feb. 15, 2018, during a vigil in Parkland, Florida, for the victims of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

And why does the darkness hover over us like sticky tar blanketing our world? Why, when 89% of Americans support universal background checks? Why, when 56% of Americans want assault weapons banned?

It feels like a riddle. Doesn’t it?

Each time the riddle gallops through another town and downs another mother, aunt, child, grandfather, or great-grandmother, the vast majority of Americans — gun owners included — sit dry-faced because we’ve wept our tears away. Nearly numb, we stare at our screens and we wonder if hope is worth the trouble.

Unspoken prayers pulse from uncalloused corners of our hearts: Will this present darkness ever go away?

Luke writes to Theophilus — those who love God — in the midst of a time of impoverished terror. He writes to the people about the time of the great wait. Elizabeth waited and Mary waited and the lowly waited to be brought high. In Jesus’s day the weapon of choice was the sword. Baby boys died by government-funded swords in the days after Jesus’s birth — babies slaughtered to protect the powers.

But it was too late. Light had already been born. The darkness tried to overcome it, but it could not.

Today, surrounded by government-sanctioned death, we mark the time of our darkness with candles, reminded: Light comes.

Lisa Sharon Harper is founder and president of Freedom Road, LLC. She is also author of The Very Good Gospel and Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World — and How to Repair It All. Check out Lisa’s Substack newsletter The Truth Is…