I was at an office Christmas party when I first read the news,“27 killed at Elementary School.” Immediately my heart sank.
Back in the office, I couldn’t focus on my work. What if that had happened at my son’s school? I decided to take some vacation time to ride bikes with the kids. I’d almost pushed the whole incident to the back of my mind, when I spotted a neighbor.
As I greeted her, I could see that she was upset. The news of the shooting had made her cry all the way home from work. I struggled for something to say, but nothing came. In that moment, I felt like an ineffective Christian. This bothered me all weekend.
On Sunday, God gave me an idea: have a neighborhood prayer service. One of the videos I’d worked on, Fostering the Harvest, talked about something similar being done after 9/11. It would give people a chance to honor the grieving and to process the hard questions about the incident. That afternoon, we printed invitations and passed them out in our neighborhood.
As I began to prepare what I would say, I realized that I could not properly explain this incident without including the gospel. I had to spend time on my knees begging for courage. But God was gracious, and assured me that I could speak with boldness, because real comfort is based in real truth.
On Monday evening, people from our subdivision crowded into our living room. As they began sharing, it was clear that everyone had been deeply moved by the shootings. Some even expressed fear, and bewilderment. I led the group in a prayer for those who lost loved ones, for the family of the perpetrator, and for our nation. After praying, I spoke for about three minutes. I have included a paraphrase below, hoping that it may help anyone who is still struggling to reconcile this incident with his view of God.
Incidents like the one at Sandy Hook remind me that evil is real, and present. But it was not always this way. God created a perfect world, but Man chose to listen to the Enemy, and rebel against God. This sin brought death into our world. Man hasn’t stopped rebelling against God. In fact, what happened on Friday was indeed an act of rebellion against God.
It almost seems wrong to be celebrating and enjoying the Christmas season when so many are grieving. But I have to remind myself that I don’t celebrate Christmas because of the decorations, or the fun times with the family. I celebrate Christmas because 2000 years ago, Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then laid that life down for my sin on the cross. He not only took my punishment—the death that I deserve—but by rising from the dead He literally defeated sin, and death. For now, He allows evil to continue. But I trust His promise that one day, He will return to earth and judge all evil. He will take those who believe in Him to a place where there will be no pain, no grief, no tears, and no death. A place where I willnever hear of events like what happened on Friday. Christmas is a time to celebrate the hope of true peace on earth.
A brother from our church sang “It Is Well with My Soul.” I shared that the author wrote this hymn while he was traveling to the funerals of his children who had tragically died. It was a beautiful example of the hope and peace found through trusting in God. I closed the service by telling our neighbors that our doors are always open to pray with them.
After the service, people signed a giant card with messages for the families in Connecticut. Many of those attending expressed how helpful it was to process such an incident together.
We are disturbed and horrified by the violence at Sandy Hook, and our hearts recoil at the pain it brought. People around us are trying to process these events. Some don’t have answers. We have hope, and the true reason to celebrate Christmas. May God open doors for us to share this with others.