(Photo: Reuters/Adrees Latif)
Christian leaders were quick to offer their reaction to the deadly shooting Friday at a Connecticut elementary school in a small town where within minutes 26 people were dead – 20 of them children.
By mid-afternoon, evangelist and Harvest Christian Fellowship Pastor Greg Laurie had posted a blog in which he called the morning shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton the "worst imaginable scenario."
"It's Christmas time," Laurie wrote. "Parents bundle up their children another day for school before Christmas vacation starts in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut. There's shopping to do, errands to run before they pick them up.
"Then the worst imaginable scenario takes place. A young man walks into Sandy Hook Elementary School and begins shooting. When the horror finally stops 20 children and 6 adults have been shot and killed. This is just heartbreaking."
Laurie, who lost his 33-year-old son, Christopher, as the result of a deadly car accident in 2008, said he knows the excruciating pain of losing a child.
"The experts will opine on why this happened. All I can say is this was pure evil. The heartlessness and wickedness of this man that did the shooting is really unimaginable," he wrote. "I know from personal experience that the pain of losing a child is a fate worse than death for a parent.
"At times like this we must reflect on the essential message of Christmas which is Immanuel has come. Immanuel means God is with us."
Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Rapid Response unit were already on their way Friday, some being diverted from New York while serving victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"Senseless killings like the one we've seen today in Newtown, Conn., leave us stunned and looking for answers," said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "The Bible tells us the human heart is 'wicked' and 'who can know it?' My heart aches for the victims, their families and the entire community.
"One thing we can be absolutely sure of is that God loves each one of the victims and all those who are suffering right now as a result of this vicious act," he continued. "My hope and prayer is that our entire nation will embrace the community of Newtown with our love and cover them with our prayers, asking for God's perfect comfort and peace in the midst of this dark hour."
Not too long after the tragedy, Christian author Max Lucado wrote a prayer published in The Christian Post.
It's a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.
The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off…"
He continued, "Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod's jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence…"
He concluded, "This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
Pastor Rocky Veach, who oversees TORCH Ministries and leads Connections Church with wife Bobbi Veach in Newton, spoke with The Christian Post Friday shortly after learning about the tragedy. He told CP that at least two families from his congregation are from the Sandy Hook area.
"I think it's indicative of the condition of our culture in this nation that this kind of thing continues to happen," said Veach. "As a pastor, I think we have to look to the Lord. A lot of people are hurting today and it's very sad when you have to ask God for His help to comfort them, and not only for the healing but just for answers as to why this kind of thing continues to happen."