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Advent and Arapahoe High School

When a shooter went on a rampage at her daughter’s high school, Nycki Heisler of Fuller Colorado couldn’t be with her little girl. But she knew God was.

Lumpkin - branch shadows

Photo by Matt Lumpkin (MDiv ’11)

I was in the middle of Christmas shopping when I received a text message from an unknown number that read, “Bella is okay.” This was a very strange message to receive and as I closed the message screen, I saw I had an alert from the local news station: “Active Shooter at Arapahoe High School.” As I read those words aloud another shopper said, “Yes, I saw the police all headed that way as I was driving.” I uttered the words, “My daughter goes there!” and immediately the tears began to flow. I stood in the middle of a store full of Christmas shoppers and a stranger put her arm around me, trying to comfort me.

As I jumped into my car and headed toward the school, I found myself comforted by this one thought: “God is with us.” You see, this is the greatest meaning of Advent—Immanuel—God with us. I couldn’t be with my daughter as she huddled under a desk in a dark, locked classroom hearing gunshots and screams. I couldn’t hold her hand as she was evacuated at gunpoint by the police and then patted down. For four hours my little girl had to process this tragedy without me or her dad, but she wasn’t alone. God was with her, and with us.

As I reflect on these events alongside the season we celebrate as Advent, I am so thankful that whatever pain, fear, or tragedy we are enduring, God is with us. He has come as wonderful counselor, prince of peace, Immanuel. In the midst of our darkest moments, light bursts forth and the angel declares, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” This Advent, those words are life in a new way for us. It is such good news and even while we are sad, we have great joy. We are praying that each and every one of you would experience Immanuel this year. There is no greater thing I can imagine.