It was already a tough week.
On Wednesday I was at my leadership class and we were talking about criminal justice.
We spent the morning in a court room and the afternoon in jail.
We were told about people doing bad things.
It was a long tough day, because it was a reminder that this world is filled with some very dark places.
And then Friday I heard about the tragedy in Connecticut.
What happened on Friday at the school in Newtown Connecticut was jarring to say the least.
It stopped me in my tracks as I am sure it did all of you.
I had planned on preaching about giving God of our gifts as part of our stewardship series.
At first I thought I should just scrap my sermon all together and preach about what happened.
Then I thought I would just add a special section at the beginning of my sermon to say something about the tragedy.
But then I realized that I don’t know if I have the words today that would answer all of your questions.
All I have is what all of you have grief, anger, and confusion.
But then I thought about it some more.
Today we are talking about giving our gifts to God.
We see in tragedies like this what happens when we fail to see our gifts, when we fail to see others gifts, and when we fail to use our gifts.
We also see what happens when others use their gifts to do what they have been called by God to do.
You see we all know what the ideal is.
We all know that God made each and every one of us, and gave us talents and passions that are used for making the world go.
This is a hard truth to hold onto because it means believing that God made Adam Lanza.
It is hard to believe because it means believing that God had given him gifts.
I read some reports that said that Adam Lanza was a very smart kid.
And now that is wasted.
He might have had gifts that would have cured a disease or helped humankind in ways we have not yet thought of.
And all we are left with is the question, why?
Why would Adam Lanza do such a horrible thing?
I don’t know for sure.
What I do know is that we can’t overlook our gifts, or the gifts of others.
We have to embrace them and celebrate them.
One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ward Beacher, “God asks no one whether they will accept life. That is not the choice. You must take it. The only question is how.”
How will we use the gifts that God has given us to build up others, and show our love to the world?
We are told in scripture that all these gifts that we have are given by God to build up the body of Christ.
The gifts we have been given are so we can care for our families, and serve our neighbors.
When we waste them or underutilize them we are throwing away the gift.
What if Mozart had refused to write songs?
What if Abraham Lincoln had refused to run for president?
What if MLK would have refused to join the bus boycott in Montgomery Alabama?
What if Ted Williams would have refused to try out for little league baseball?
We all would have been poorer for it.
If we fail to see our gifts, to name them, and then to put them into action, we are robbing each other of blessings that God wants to give.
And it doesn’t even have to be on that grand a stage.
What about the person who fixes our cars, cuts our hair, mows our lawn, protects our streets, fights our fires, bags our groceries, grows our food, teaches our children, makes our clothes, and loans us money.
All of the things that are done in our community are done for the glory of God.
It is when we are all using our gifts for the common good that we live in harmony and peace.
What disrupts that is when someone forgets that they were made by God, and that God loved them enough to give them gifts meant to be shared.
When we feel left out of the process or undervalued that is where the trouble starts.
And it is no different in the Church.
I believe that God has sent us, and provided us all the gifts that we need for this ministry to share the good news, bind up the broken hearted, and help the poor.
I believe there will be new people that God sends us to help us grow.
There is always plenty of work to be done for the kingdom of God.
This morning Luke does something unique with his Gospel.
He has John the Baptists give advice to the crowd about what they should be doing.
John is still the fire brand preacher calling people to account for what they have done.
But Luke, in typical fashion, makes John’s words have even more meaning because he talks in practical terms.
John tells us to use what God has given to help others.
If you have two coats give one away, if you have more food than you need share with your neighbor.
It should be mentioned some of the people John is talking about are despised by most people in his community.
Most people didn’t like tax collectors because most of them stole money from them.
Most people didn’t like Roman soldiers because they carried out the orders of unjust political system.
But what John doesn’t say is stop being a solider or a tax collector.
What he says is be a better one.
Use the gifts God has given to be just and help your neighbor.
I am thinking this morning of the teachers who did what they were trained to do that Friday morning in Connecticut.
The teachers who locked the doors and hid with the children trying to comfort them and let them know it would be alright even though they were not sure.
Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, both among those killed, were said to have run toward the gunfire as it broke out, with Hochsprung lunging at the gunman, according to town officials.
"A lot of children are alive today because of actions the teachers took," School Superintendent Janet Robinson told NBC's TODAY show on Saturday.
Teachers who were doing what God put them here to do protect and care about the well being of children even before their own well being.
I know a lot of us hug our children a little more tightly these past couple of days.
I know for me this once again put my life in proper perspective about what truly matters.
And if anything good can come from this perhaps it is that we can all see our lives as more important than we thought.
Perhaps we will think of ways to use our God given gifts to be better, and do better.
We will think of ways to make our world more just, and peaceful.
There is no doubt that we can’t stop bad things from happening.
We can’t stop people with bad intentions from doing what they will do.
What we can do is hold on to each other a little tighter.
We can have faith that God is closer to us than we think or know.
This is what Christmas is about that God dwells among us.
God comes into the sinful world of human beings.
God experiences firsthand our pain.
Jesus weeps over death.
Jesus gets angry over violence that kills.
In mercy reaches out to those who feel betrayed and left out.
Because of Jesus we know that we never suffer alone.
God is always drawing near to our pain.
Most importantly today we need to hear again Jesus tell us that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it
Advent is a reminder that God is here, God is coming, and that the light breaks into the darkness of our lives.
And it is a reminder to us that we still grown for God to make it stop.
What is the gift that you have been given?
How do you use them for the building up of your neighbor?
Today that is a question is closer to our lips than ever.
Because when things like the tragedy in Connecticut happen we pray a little more, hug our loved ones tighter, and desire God to stop our pain.
Even with this tragedy Christmas is still coming, Jesus is still here.
God doesn’t ask us if we want the gift, that is not the choice, the only choice is how we will use it.
How will you?