New York City is so crowded and dense that when a terrorist incident happens, as it did on Monday, if it doesn’t happen on your block it can still feel far away.

That morning when the incident occurred, I was waiting in the subway tunnel at 181st Street to take my usual train to work. I had been in Times Square the day before, and I had felt inspired–as is my wont–to record a song on my phone.

In church we’d listened to those wonderful words from Isaiah that foreshadow the coming of the Messiah, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people…”

So there I stood in Times Square, in the middle of people rushing to their matinees or simply gazing at the lights, and I launched into an old hymn “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, speak ye peace…”

It seemed a fine message for a bustling, Christmas-shopping place.

Now on Monday morning, standing on the subway platform, I loaded that short video onto Facebook, adding #TimesSquare and #HappyAdvent. Done.

Meanwhile the train was slow in coming and the announcer, through the crackle of the loudspeaker, was saying something about the trains being delayed and skipping Times Square, “Because of a police investigation…”

Most of us reacted with the usual commuter-at-rush-hour impatience, muttering, “Now I’m going to be really late for work!”

But as we checked for news on our phones–oh, the magic of the cell phone–we learned what the announcer had not said. This delay was because of a terrorist incident.

How fragile life can be.

“Weren’t you afraid?” some people have asked. Quite frankly, I was not. Maybe it was because the whole thing had happened a hundred blocks away. Or maybe because that old hymn was still resonating in my brain.

“Comfort those who sit in darkness mourning ‘neath their sorrows’ load. Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them…”

Peace, peace, peace for all of us, peace in all places, peace from the Prince of Peace.

The train finally arrived, and we all got on. It lumbered very slowly downtown. Contrary to what the announcer said, it went right through Times Square without stopping. We gazed at an eerily empty station. Not a soul was on the platform. Only the police.

According to the news, the damage had been blessedly slight. We could be grateful for that.

I got to work quite late, still praying for peace. That’s what we do at Advent, no matter where we are, no matter how bad the news, believing and trusting in the Good News that is to come.

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