The world did not come to an end on Friday, as the Mayans predicted. I never doubted for a moment that it would. I believe it will come in God's time, not man's predicted time.
But for some families in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, the world as they knew it, did come to an end on Dec. 14.
That's when a 20-year-old man murdered 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I was at my church, St. Matthew's UCC in Kunkletown, with several other members of our CIA (Christians In Action) group, preparing for our presentation of Journey to Bethlehem. The day before, Harry had erected a tower 30 feet high out of scaffolding and Ryan Scheckler and he placed a 6-foot high star Ryan made, at the top. They covered the scaffolding with black tarps so the metal works were hidden. It was very impressive!
Unfortunately, it was extremely windy on Friday. The black tarp acted like a sail and the towering structure toppled over, star face down. Two of the life-size painted wooden Wise Men on camels that Nancy Byerly made had also flipped over. Someone alerted us to what happened and we all went running. We stood there in stunned silence. Devastated. The star was such a key part of our presentation. Would we be able to get the tower back up? Was the star broken?
That's when someone finally said, "Gee. In light of what happened in Sandy Hook today, this is nothing."
And that's the first time I heard about the horrific tragedy. I think my heart stopped beating for a moment as the events of the morning were told to me. How could this happen? Why did it happen? I couldn't begin to imagine the pain those families were dealing with.
"You're right. This is nothing, in the big scheme of things," said Renee Keiper, our fearless leader.
"We'll have it back up in no time," said Lynn Byerly. And with the help of many hands, it was indeed standing tall in time for the presentation.
Oh, that all those broken lives could be so easily fixed.
Later, when commiserating with others, one friend said she wasn't going to talk about it. She believes it just serves to give the killer fame.
Another friend, a teacher, added a disturbing thought. He says the young man was obviously sick. As a teacher, he says he personally knows at least 10 young people in his school that he believes would be capable of such an act. He also believes that incidents like Sandy Hook and Columbine, really can't be prevented. If someone wants to commit such a crime, they'll find a way.
"But can't you report these kids?" I asked.
"What do I base my report on? A feeling? You fill out paper work, the kid gets a counseling session maybe? And then what? You have to acknowledge the fact that there are people with illnesses who will do despicable acts of violence."
Harry and I went shopping Tuesday night at the Stroud Mall. We encountered a friend, Larry, who helps Santa Claus every year as one of his North Pole emissaries. After catching up on our personal lives, Larry talked a little bit about how he ministers in his role as Santa Claus.
"I had a mother tell me her young son was starting small fires and how concerned she was. When he sat on my knee, I let him know I knew about the fires. He was pretty surprised I knew about them. I told him I was a volunteer fireman and what could happen to little boys when they played with something so dangerous, explaining how he could end up hurting himself or others. That there are always consequences to what we do."
Could this little boy someday end up doing something as horrifying as destroying a city block of family homes?
This was scary stuff coming from a Santa Claus. Where were all the warm fuzzies that go with the Christmas season?
I asked Larry, an ordained minister, "How do you deal with the news about things like Sandy Hook?"
He was quiet for a moment.
"Pray for grace," he said. "Pray for God to grant those families grace and peace."
The reason for the season of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.
God sent His son to be the Light of the World, to guide us in love and forgiveness.
After I said my prayers last night, I ended as I always do with, "I pray for peace on earth and good will toward men." I prayed for grace and peace for the Sandy Hook families
And after a lot of arguing with myself about the act of forgiveness, my human nature side ended with this harsh final thought, "Forgive me God, but if there is a Hell, I pray you send Adam Lanza there."
Hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them, every day. You just never know when your world, as you know it, will end.