"Comfort my people," says our God. "Comfort them!"
- Isaiah 40:1
"I will comfort you in Jerusalem, as a mother comforts her child."
- Isaiah 66:13
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
In the midst of the hope and peace of Advent and the anticipated celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our lives have once again been invaded by the horrible news of tragedy and death. I have a personal connection with Newtown, Connecticut where this indescribable tragedy occurred. My family and I lived in a nearby town, and I remember the time when I visited and worshiped in the Newtown United Methodist Church. There are no words to express our heartbroken sorrow for the loss of the innocent lives by this senseless killing. We resonate with the words of Jeremiah, repeated in Matthew, over the killing of innocent children by King Herod:
"A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping.
Rachel is crying for her children."
Obviously, like Rachel, we weep for these children and their families. We are praying for them and for solace in their grief. We are praying for strength for the religious and civic leaders in the Newtown, Connecticut community as they, and their people, mourn and prepare to bury their loved ones and to support their grieving families. This tragedy raises for us many questions for which we have no immediate answers. However, this much we do know: our God cares and our God can comfort. We, as God's church, represent God's presence for such a time like this for we can be a part of God's healing and hope.
I am calling upon the pastors and the congregations of the Susquehanna Annual Conference to find a moment in this weekend's worship services to especially pray for these deceased children and adults, their families, and their community. Might we all take time to tell our children and loved ones how much they mean to us. Let us be people who show God's love of grace and peace as made known most vividly in the Christ child. Let us respond with grace to those persons who are hurting and need a helping hand. Amidst this season of light and joy, there are many individuals within our communities and churches that desperately yearn for a word of hope and an assurance that they are loved. God's grace and love ultimately triumphs over evil. So, let us be instruments of God's solution to a hurting world. May each of us this day, feel the support and nurture of the eternal grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah J. Park
Resident Bishop, Harrisburg Area