By Julie Hagen
Christmas is quickly approaching and the to-do list that might otherwise stress me out, seems somewhat insignificant this year. Instead of finishing my end of year budget at work and wrapping gifts at home, I’ve been reading stories of children, teachers and administrators whose lives were all cut too short. Our lives have been rocked by the death of those 20 innocent children and 6 adults in Newtown, CT.
Earlier this week, Terri wrote a powerful reflection on hearing the news from CT and the pain we face in our broken world. She writes, “Sin in our world cuts deep. Innocent people are victims. Reality breaks our heart. Pain is real. And into this hurt, a baby boy is born. God with us. Immanuel. This sin, this hurt, is the true reason Christ came to earth.”
Throughout Scripture, over 100 names are given to Jesus. From Wonderful Counselor, The Good Shepherd, the Tree of Life, or the Lamb of God, each of these names is rich with meaning. But I believe there is no name more significant than Immanuel. This name, which Matthew refers to in his Gospel (Matthew 1:23), was first given to Jesus by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before his birth (Isaiah 7:14). There is no more poignant time to hear the words, Immanuel, God with us, than right now.
The following quote from Mr. Rogers has been appearing in blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts over the past week. "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."
I am blessed to be in a congregation of helpers who are committed to walking with young people as they grow in their faith. I wonder how we as communities of faith can support the helpers in our congregations and beyond. What practices does your congregation to support leaders in the midst of pain and tragedy? Are there resources you have shared with leaders and families to help them talk about tragedy? How has your congregation talked about the tragedy in CT and Christ's presence with us?
As we prepare for the birth of Jesus, Immanuel, I give thanks for the gift of helpers in our churches who graciously give of themselves for the sake of young people. And I lift up all of the helpers at Sandy Hook Elementary school whose only concern was the safety of the children.
Who have been the helpers in your life? Christmas is a good time to show our gratitude and thank them for being a living example of Christ, Immanuel.
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Julie Hagen works with Lower Elementary children and families at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove. She is a pracitioner on the ground who is a First Third Voice for 2012-2013.