At just four years after the Newtown massacre, horror and devastation remains distinctly palatable in the lives of the families and friends of the victims. In the wake of such events, this post still rings true:

Friday was an indescribably horrific day in the life of Newtown, CT. Death comes to all of us, but the incredible violence and evil intent displayed by such an event rightfully leaves us at a loss for words, and there is something particularly unspeakable about the senseless brutalizing of children. Aurora was horrifying, but something about violence towards children churns our stomachs in a visceral way that leaves us all the more furious and heartbroken. These were kindergarteners, no less; children in their first year of school who were approaching their first Christmas break. For those families, I can’t help but think that Christmas can never again be a time of joy and giving, but must now always be a solemn remembrance ceremony of what was lost. How could they ever recover? It’s truly devastating, and to not spend some time reflecting on the deep, deep loss of those families, that community, or even our nation would be callous, at best.

A few days after the shooting, however – as the dust begins to settle – it is worth considering the causes of such events. This is not the first time we’ve seen this kind of crisis in recent months, of course, and the reaction from commentators has been predictable, if disappointing. Political opportunists spent Friday afternoon furiously tweeting in an effort to exploit the developing tragedy for their own personal agendas (the word “uncouth” comes to mind), and “gun control” is on everyone’s lips. This response is certainly not unjustified (it’s a discussion worth having), but the view of many that loose gun control somehow “explains” Sandy Hook is both simplistic and naïve. The problem is much deeper and more intractable.

If we strip away the posturing, the politicking, and all of the surrounding noise, we begin to realize that the core problem isn’t radical politics; it isn’t a lack of after-school programs; it isn’t even our gun policies – it’s us. William Golding once observed that “the problems of human society are the problems of human nature,” and while that is an incredibly terrible and daunting truth with which to come to grips, it is only through that realization that we can begin crafting real solutions to the very real problem. There are no easy answers here, and we should resist the temptation to begin thinking otherwise. The gun control debate may justifiably rage on, but such environmental constraints only scratch the surface of a long-term solution.

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas – and why I hope and pray that every single parent, sibling, and friend affected by Friday’s horrible events turns to Christmas for solace and comfort. We think of Christmas as a very joyful time for celebrating family and friends, which is why the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School may find it difficult to ever celebrate Christmas again – their families will never be complete. For the rest of us, we should absolutely count our blessings and keep our families close, but if we stop there, we’ve missed the point. Real Christmas is about something much deeper, and it’s intimately tied up with events like the Newtown shooting. Christmas brings with it the hope of salvation from the brokenness and misery of a fallen world – salvation from Sandy Hook Elementary and all the events like it.

Christmas doesn’t paper over our intractable condition; it speaks to us where we are. Just consider the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 2, which recounts Herod’s insidious murder of the children of Bethlehem. We often leave that part out of our Christmas story, but Jesus was no stranger to mass murder and incredible suffering, even as a baby. To those mothers who lost their children that Christmas, much like the parents of Newtown, it must have seemed as if the world had crumbled and could never be made right.

Yet in the Christmas story, we see the hope of a life where all wrongs can be righted and shattered families can, one day, be made whole. Jesus faced and conquered his own death and suffering, and through that, he offers to conquer all death and suffering. We must often feel the pain of living in a broken world, as Newtown so vividly reminds us; but Christmas remains a time of joy even in the face of brutality and death because it ushers in the promise of resurrection and redemption. It’s the grandest claim of the Christian faith and without it, Newtown can never be more than an unfortunate statistic.

That’s why those families who lost children and family members last Friday need Christmas now more than ever before. That’s why we need Christmas now more than ever before, because only through that Child can we ever hope to find peace in this violent wasteland.