Newtown residents Claire Swanson, Ian Fuchs, Kate Suba, Jaden Albrecht, Simran Chand hold candles at a memorial for victims on the first Sunday following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 16, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- "I think I was like the average American in shock, trying to understand, and at the same time thinking, 'how does this happen?'
But unlike the average American, Andy Stanley has 33,000 people who look to him for answers each week as the Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church. And he is very familiar with the question that comes after tragedies like this, 'Where was God?'
"The 'Where was God' question was an important question, and I always push back with this question, 'Which God are we talking about?' If it's the God that we keep in our back pocket and pull out in case of emergencies, the God that we say on Friday night, 'You stay home, I'm going out, but if I see a blue light in the rearview mirror then I'll call on you.' But that God doesn't exist, but unfortunately in the United States the emergency case God is the God most people think about and pray to."
Stanley says free will is a big part of what happened in Newtown on friday. But he says the problem is larger, that our national conscience has drifted too far away from common sense, from what is right and wrong.
"I have preached for years and years and years that we as a nation need to rethink our conscience and the problem is, there is only one way to re center or reverse the trend of a conscience whether personally or nationally, and that's tragedy."
The destruction of innocence during the advent season makes many feel there can be no joy in Christmas, but Stanley says the story of Christmas, the vulnerable child born to be a Savior of the world is where hope is found.
"There's hope that God can take what's fragile and make it powerful. God can take what's innocent and use it to impact people who've lost their innocence. While what's happened overshadowed the experience of Christmas, it's in the story of Christmas that I think we find the hope that we're all going to need as we move forward."