The top bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America told members of his church, ecumenical partners and members of the Lutheran World Federation in his 2012 Christmas message that they can rejoice together in the wonder of Jesus' birth even amidst the "unspeakable" violence which claimed the lives of numerous children in Newtown, Connecticut last week.
He began the message by quoting Luke 2:12:
"This will be a sing for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."
He alluded to the shooting rampage in an elementary school last week which left over two dozen people dead, including the killer by suicide.
"This year, the Christmas story is inseparable from our deep sorrow for the children of Newtown, all who died and all who mourn," Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said in the message published on Thursday.
The bishop focused on God's words of promise in response to the tragedy.
"We can make no sense of such violence, so we cry out for mercy. And God hears our pleas. God responds with words of promise saying, 'I am with you. I am with you in Jesus, the child lying in a manger. I am with you in Jesus who has bourn your grief. I am with you in Jesus on the Cross and risen from the dead," he said.
"God's promise is (that) nothing in all creation will separate you from God's love in Jesus. So amidst the unspeakable, we can join the angel choir singing, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.'
"Because our hope is in Christ, we can rejoice in the wonder of Jesus' birth. I wish you a blessed Christmas."