Even as the horror in San Bernardino unfolded Wednesday, an amazing sidebar erupted. Certain political candidates were taken to task for offering their prayers while refusing to discuss gun control. The challengers, who contended prayer was not enough, were taken to task for “prayer shaming.” And in the aftermath of a sickening tragedy, the media spent much of Thursday talking about prayer.

One of the most moving discussions I heard was on KPCC’s Take Two. Brie Loskota, managing director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC, emphasized the need for faith in action. “[I]n the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, ‘I was hungry and you fed me,’ not ‘I was hungry and you prayed for me.’ There’s an impulse that is supposed to compel people to action — that they are empowered through their sense of prayer and clarity that comes with it — to do good things in the world and transform the world.”

Reverend Sandy Tice, pastor of First Presbyterian in San Bernardino, considered what she will say to her congregation. “There is a lot of darkness and I’m not sure I know a way to stop it, but I refuse to stop praying and longing for the light… In our tradition, Advent is a season of longing for peace on earth, among other things,” she said. “And we proclaim that God actually dwells in the world as it actually is, not as we wish it would be. We will read texts like ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it,’ and we will sing together… Words of Desmond Tutu set to music by John Bell, ‘Goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death.’ That’s what we will hold onto on Sunday, I think.”

In the darkness of tragedy, in the longing of Advent, let us hold on to love, hope, and light. But let us also take action, striding to the manger with purpose, ready to do His work and bring His light to all who long for it.

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all man-kind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5