How do we go to church to worship God when we are again reminded that the world we live in is full of tragedy, pain, loss, and even violence? You have no doubt heard by now of the shooting at a grade school in Connecticut this morning. The last count I heard was 27 people dead, 20 of whom were children.

Perhaps I am more tender right now as my own family has been dealing with increasingly troubling symptoms of a concussion in Caleb over the last couple of weeks. Perhaps it is that this is a grade school and I have my own kindergartener whom I cannot imagine losing or having been exposed to that kind of violence so closely and personally. Whatever it is, there is an ache in my soul for the loss that has occurred today.

Almost 14 years ago I preached at the church at which I was doing my internship in an urban Boston congregation the Sunday following the Columbine shooting. At that time a violation of the sacred space of a school had not been experienced before as a part of the American consciousness. Now we have had so many. High schools have been targeted by students and adults over and over, as well as the shootings at Virginia Tech, the theater in Colorado, the temple in Oak Creek, and even the beauty parlor in Brookfield.

Anyone who was personally touched by these events had to have at least for a moment questioned. Questions like, why? how could this happen? Where was God? The fact is, I cannot answer any of those questions. Loss is one of the greatest pains we can feel, whether it is from health issues, accidents, or crime. None of us want to feel that intense suffering of loss. We certainly don’t want to feel that someone can cause us that loss. And we don’t want to believe that the evil of the world can penetrate the lives of our small children.

Today the President said that like all parents he would hug his children a little tighter tonight. When I picked Maggie up from school this afternoon I did indeed physically pick her up and carry her to the car. A father I passed said, “it feels good to hold them after Connecticut.” It does indeed.

I believe though, that like all parents, God will be hugging his children a little tighter tonight. Because God chose to create a world in which people have free will, tragedies occur. There are all sorts of social evils and injustices that go in to creating situations like these. The one thing I am confident of though is that God’s love for us never fails. Most of us need a more physical representation of God’s love on occasion for it to penetrate. That is why God created us to be in relationship. We need people to experience God. Come to church this weekend. The children of Summerfield will be sharing their experience of the Christmas story during the 10:30 worship service. If you don’t have a child to hug, I will lend you mine. Come and be connected. Feel God’s love, comfort, and presence through the power of connection. And in your own quest for comfort, you may be miraculously used to offer someone else the very things you are most craving.

Peace to you, my friends. God is still with us.

~ Pastor Jennifer (Posted on CNN iReport)